Skip to main content

Full text of "The Story Of Philosophy"

See other formats













Socrates 




























THE STORY 

OF 

PHILOSOPHY 

BY 

WILL DURANT 

NEW REVISED EDITION 
ILLUSTRATED 



GARDEN CITY PUBLISHING CO., INC. 


NEW YORK 


1938 

GARDEN CITY PUBLISHING CO., INC. 

COPYRIGHT, 1926, 1927, 1933 
BY WILL DURANT 

NEW REVISED EDITION 
CL 



TO MY WIFE 

Grow strong, my comrade . . . that you may stand 
Unshaken when I fall; that I may know 
The shattered fragments of my song will come 
At last to finer melody in you; 

That I may tell my heart that you begin 
Where passing I leave off, and fathom more. 




PREFACE TO THE SECOND EDITION 


APOLOGIA PRO LIBRO SUO 

I 

My publishers have asked me to use the occasion given by a 
new edition of The Story of Philosophy to discuss the general 
question of ^^outlineSy'' and to consider some of the short¬ 
comings of the voluTne. I am glad of this opportunity to ac¬ 
knowledge these, and to express with all the weakness of mere 
words the gratitude that I must always feel for the generosity 
with which, despite so many defects, the American public has 
received this book. 

The ^^outlines*' came because a million voices called for them. 
Human knowledge had become unmanageably vasi; every sci¬ 
ence had begotten a dozen more, each subtler than the rest; 
the telescope revealed stars and systems beyond the mmd of 
man to number or to name; geology spoke in terms of millions 
of years, where men before had thought in terms of thousands; 
physics found a universe in the atom, and biology found a 
microcosm in the cell; physiology discovered inexhaustible 
mystery in every organ, and psychology in every dream; an¬ 
thropology reconstructed the unsuspected antiquity of man, 
archeology unearthed buried cities and forgotten states, his¬ 
tory proved all history false, and painted a canvas which only 
a Spengler or an Eduard Meyer could vision as a whole; 
theology crumbled, and political theory cracked; invention 
complicated life and war, and economic creeds overturned 
governments and inflamed the world; philosophy itself, which 
had once summoned all sciences to its aid in making a coherent 
image of the world and an alluring picture of the good, found 
its task of coordination too stupendous for its courage, ran 



vi PREFACE TO THE SECOND EDITION 

(may from all these battlefronts of truths and hid itself m rec^ 
ondite and narrow lanes^ timidly secure from the issues and re^ 
sponsibilities of life. Human knowledge had become too great 
for the human mind. 

All that remained was the scientific specialist^ who knew 
*^more and more about less and less^^ a/nd the philosophical 
speculator^ who knew less and less about more and more. The 
specialist put on blinders in order to shut out from his vision 
all the world but one little spot^ to which he glued his nose. 
Perspective was lost. Facts** replaced understanding; and 
knowledge^ split into a thousand isolated fragments, no longer 
generated wisdom. Every science, and every branch of phi¬ 
losophy, developed a technical terminology intelligible only to 
its exclusive devotees; as men learned more about the world, 
they found themselves ever less capable of expressing to their 
educated fellow-men what it was that they had learned. The 
gap between life and knowledge grew wider and wider; those 
who governed cotdd not understand those who thought, and 
those who wanted to know could not understand those who 
knew. In the rnidst of unprecedented learning popular igno¬ 
rance flourished, and chose its exemplars to rule the great cities 
of the world; in the midst of sciences endowed and enthroned as 
never before, new religions were born every day, and old super¬ 
stitions recaptured the ground they had lost. The common 
man found himself forced to choose between a scientific priest¬ 
hood mumbling unintelligible pessimism, and a theological 
priesthood mumbling incredible hopes. 

In this situation the function of the professional teacher was 
clear. It should have been to mediate between the specialist 
and the nation; to learn the specialises language, as the spe¬ 
cialist had learned nature*s, in order to break down the bar¬ 
riers between knowledge cmd ^ed, and find for new truths old 
terms that all literate people might umderstand. For if 
knowledge became too great for communication, it would de¬ 
generate into scholasticism, and the weak acceptance of au¬ 
thority; mankind would slip into a new age of faith, worship- 



PREFACE TO THE SECOND EDITION vii 

ing at a respectful distance its new priests; and civilization, 
which had hoped to raise itself upon education disseminated 
far and wide, would he left precariously based upon a technical 
erudition that had become the monopoly of an esoteric class 
monasticaUy isolated from the world by the high birth rate of 
terminology. No wonder that aU. the world applauded when 
Ja/tnes Harvey Robinson sounded the call for the removal of 
these barriers and the humanization of modern knowledge. 


n 

The first **outlines,” the first efforts at the humanization of 
knowledge, were Plato’s Dialogues. The pundits possibly 
know that the Master wrote two sets of works—one in technical 
language for his students at the Academy; the other a group 
of popular dialogues designed to lure the average literate 
Athenian into philosophy’s “dear delight.” It did not seem 
to Plato any insult to philosophy that it should be transformed 
into literature, realized as drama, and beautified with style; 
nor any derogation to its dignity that it should apply itself, 
even intelligibly, to living problems of morality and the state. 
By the humor of history, his technical soorks were lost, and his 
popular works remain. By the irony of history it is these 
popular dialogues that have given Plato his reputation in the 
schools. 

For us, however, the career of the outline begins with 
H. G. Wells. The historians did not quite know what to do 
with The Outline of History; Professor Schapiro described it 
as full of errors, and a liberal education. It was ftill of errors, 
as any book of large scope is bound to be; but it was an 
astonishing and stimulating performance for one mind. The 
journalistic genius of Mr. Wells had tied the volvmies up with 
the movement towards international peace, and had entered 
them as cm important team in the “race between education and 
catastrophe.” No one wanted catastrophe, and every one 
bought the book. History became popular, and historians be^ 



viii PREFACE TO THE SECOND EDITION 

came alarmed. Now it would he necessary for them to write 
as interestingly as H. G. Wells. 

Strange to say, two of them did. Professor Breasted, of 
Chicago and Egypt, revised and improved an old text-book, 
and Professor Robinson did the same; an enterprising pub¬ 
lishing firm gathered their work into two handsome volumes, 
gave them a captivating title —^The Human Adventure —and 
issued the best outline of all, a masterpiece of exposition as 
authoritative as a German and as clear as a Gaul. Nothing 
in their field has equaled those volumes to date. 

Meanwhile Hendrik Willem van Loon had romped over the 
same ground with a pen in one hand, a pencil in the other, and a 
twinkle m his eyes. He cared nothing for dignity, and loved 
a joke surpassing well; he went laughing down the centuries, 
and pointed his moral with drawings and smiles. Adults 
bought The Story of Mankind for their children, and sur¬ 
reptitiously read it themselves. The world was becoming 
scandalously informed about history. 

The appetite of the layman grew by what it fed on. There 
were in America millions of men and women who had been un¬ 
able to go to college, and who thirsted for the findings of his¬ 
tory a/nd science; even those who had gone through college 
showed a moderate hunger for knowledge. When John Macy 
published The Story of the World’s Literature thousands 
welcomed it as a genicd and illuminating survey of a fascinat¬ 
ing field. And when The Story of Philosophy appeared it 
had the good fortune to catch this wave of curiosity on the 
rise, and to be lifted to an undreamed-of popularity. Readers 
were astonished to find that philosophy was interesting be¬ 
cause it was, literally, a matter of life and death. They passed 
along the word to their friends, and soon it became the fashion 
to praise, to buy, even, occasionally, to read, this book that had 
been written for a few. All in all it was such a success as no 
author who has known it once can ever hope to know again. 

Then came the flood. Outline followed outline, **story'* fol¬ 
lowed “story*’; science and art, religion and law, had their 



PREFACE TO THE SECOND EDITION 


IX 


storiographerSy and Bekkcr^s slight essay was avidly trans^ 
formed into The Story of Religion. One author produced in 
one volume an outline of all knowledgCy thereby making WellSy 
van Loony Macyy Slosson, Breasted and the rest superfluous. 
The public appetite was quickly satiated; critics and profes¬ 
sors complained of superficiality and haste, and an undertow 
of resentment set in, which reached every outline from the last 
to the first. As quickly as it had come, the fashion changed; 
no one dared any longer say a 7vord for the humanization of 
knowledge; the denunciation of outlines rms now the easy road 
to critical repute; it became the style to speak with a delicate 
superiority of any non-fiction book that could be understood. 
The snob movement in literature began. 

in 

Many of the criticisms were disagreeably just. The Story 
of Philosophy was, and is, shot through with defects. First of 
ally it was incomplete. The total omission of scholastic philos¬ 
ophy was an outrage, forgivable only in one who had sufferea 
much from it in college and seminary, and resented it there¬ 
after as rather a disguised theology than an honest philosophy. 
It is true that in some cases {Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Spen¬ 
cer, Voltaire) the exposition of doctrine was more complete 
than in most histories of philosophy, regardless of their length. 
And it is true that the very first page frankly announced: 

This hook is not a complete history of philosophy. It is 
an attempt to humanize knowledge by centering the story of 
speculative thought around certain dominant personalities. 
Certain lesser figures have been omitted in order that those 
selected might have the space required to make them live. 
(Preface.) 

Nevertheless the incompleteness remained. The worst sin of 
all—though the critics do not seem to have noticed it—was the 
omission of Chinese and Hindu philosophy. Even a ^^story"* 



X 


PREFACE TO THE SECOND EDITION 


of philosophy that begins xoith Socrates, and has nothing to 
say about Lao-tze and Confucius, Mencius and Chwang-tze, 
Buddha and Shanhara, is provincially incomplete As for 
the word Story, which has since been so abused with use, it was 
chosen partly to indicate that the record would concern itself 
chiefly with the more vital philosophers, partly to convey the 
sense that the development of thought was a romance as stir¬ 
ring as any in history. 

No apology is offered for the neglect of epistemology. 
That dismal science received its due in the chapter on Kant, 
where for forty pages the reader was invited to consider the 
puzzles of perception. This chapter should have pleased the 
young pundit, for it came very near to obscurity. {However, 
one professor of philosophy, in a Midwest university, sent in 
the information that he had been teaching Kant for fifteen 
years, and had never understood Kant’s meaning until he read 
this elementary chapter.) For the rest, the book suggested un- 
amiably that the nature of the knowledge process was but one 

the many problems of philosophy; that this single problem 
Vos unfit to absorb the attention which the savants and the 
Germans had lavished upon it; and that its weary exploitation 
was largely responsible for the decadence of philosophy. The 
French have never yielded to this craze for epistemology to the 
exclusion of moral and political, historical and religious philos¬ 
ophy; and today even the Germans are recovering from it. 
Hear Keyserling: “Philosophy is essentially the completion of 
science in the synthesis of wisdom. . . . Epistemology, phe¬ 
nomenology, logic, etc., certainly are important branches of 
science.” {Precisely; they are branches of science, like chem¬ 
istry or anatomy.) “But it was an unmitigated evil that as 
the result of this, the sense for the living synthesis should have 
disappeared.” (Creative Understanding, New York, 1929, 
p. 125.) This from a German—a Daniel come to judgment. 
And Spengler describes the earlier Chinese philosophers, down 

1 The first volume of The Story of Civilization will attempt to atone for this 
omission. 



PREFACE TO THE SECOND EDITION 


XI 


to Confucius, as “statesmen, regents, lawgivers, like Pythagoras 
and Parmenides, like Hobbes and Leibniz. . . . They were 
sturdy philosophers for whom epistemology was the knowledge 
of the important relations of actual life.” (Decline of the 
West, vol. i, p. 4^.) Doubtless now that epistemology is dy¬ 
ing in Germany, it will be exported to America, as a fit return 
for the gift of democracy. 

The Chinese philosophers were not only averse to epistemol¬ 
ogy, they had an almost Gallic disdain for prolonged meta¬ 
physics. No young metaphysician could admit that Con¬ 
fucius is a philosopher, for he says nothing about metaphysics, 
and less about epistemology; he is as positivistic as Spencer or 
Comte; his concern is always for morals and the state. Worse 
than that, he is disreputably intelligible; and nothing could be 
so damaging to a philosopher. But we “modems" have be¬ 
come so acctistomed to windy verbiage in philosophy that when 
philosophy is presented without the verbiage we can with dif¬ 
ficulty recognize it. One must pay a penalty for having a 
prejudice against obscurity. 

The Story tried to salt itself with a seasoning of humor, not 
only because wisdom is not wise if it scares away merriment, 
hut because a sense of humor, being born of perspective, bears 
a near kmship to philosophy; each is the soul of the other. 
But this appears to have displeased the pundits; nothing so 
hurt the book with them as its smiles. A reputation for humor 
is disastrous to statesmen and philosophers: Germany could 
not forgive Schopenhauer his story of Unzelmann, and only 
France has recognized the depth behind the wit and brilliance 
of Voltaire. 

I trust that the book never misled its readers into supposing 
that by reading it they would become philosophers overnight, 
or that they would be saved the trouble, or pleasure, of reading 
the philosophers themselves. God knows there is no short-cut 
to knowledge; after forty years of seeking her one finds 
“Truth" stiU veiled, and what she shows of herself most dis¬ 
concerting. Instead of aiming to be a substitute for philoso^ 



xii PREFACE TO THE SECOND EDITION 

phers, the Story explicitly offered itself as an introduction and 
an invitation; it quoted the philosophers lavishly, so that the 
taste for them might linger when the book was closed; time and 
again it prodded the reader to the original texts (e. g., on pp. 
^2, 67y 121y 289y 331y 1^8); and warning was given that 

one reading of them would hardly he enough. Cf. p. 186: 

Spinoza is not to be read, he is to be studied; you must ap¬ 
proach him as you would approach Euclid, recognizing that 
in these brief two hundred pages a man has written down his 
lifetime's thought with stoic sculptury of everything super¬ 
fluous, Do not think to find its core by running over it 
rapidly. . . . Read the book not all at once, but in small 
portions at many sittings. And having finished it, consider 
that you have but begun to understand it. Read then some 
commentary, like Pollock*s Spinoza, or Martineau*s Study 
of Spinoza, or, better, both. Finally, read the Ethics again; 
it will be a new book to you. When you have finished it a 
second time you will remain forever a lover of philosophy. 

It is comforting to learn that the sales of the philosophical 
tlassics increased some two hundred per cent, after the publica¬ 
tion of the Story. Many publishers have issued new editions, 
particularly of Plato, Spinoza, Voltaire, Schopenhauer and 
Nietzsche. A high official of the New York Public Library, 
who asks to be unnamed, reports that 

ever since the publication of the Story of Philosophy we have 
had a wide and increasing demand from the public for the 
philosophical classics, and our stock of them in the branch 
libraries has been gradually increased. • . . Formerly, cur¬ 
rent books about philosophy were purchased m small quanti¬ 
ties for the system; but in the last two or three years a 
readable new book about philosophy is purchased very gen¬ 
erally at the outset, in anticipation of a demand which even¬ 
tually does develop, and quickly at that. 

Let us not, then, be ashamed of teaching the people. Those 
jealous ones who would guard their knowledge from the world 



PREFACE TO THE SECOND EDITION 


Xlll 


have only themselves to blame if their exclusiveness and their 
barbarous terminology have led the world to seek m books, in 
lectures, and in adult education, the instruction which they 
themselves have failed to give. Let them be grateful that their 
halting efforts are aided by amateurs who love life enough to 
let it humanize their teaching. Perhaps each kind of teacher 
can be of aid to the other: the cautious scholar to check our 
enthusiasm with accuracy, and the enthusiast to pour warmth 
and blood into the fruits of scholarship. Between us we might 
build up in America an audience fit to listen to geniuses, and 
therefore ready to produce them. We are all imperfect teach¬ 
ers, but we may be forgiven if we have advanced the matter a 
little, and have done our best. We announce the prologue, 
and retire; after us better players will come. 

THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY has been translated into German, French, 
Swedish, Danish, Jugo-Slavian, Chinese, Japanese and Hungarian, The Amer» 
iean edition alone has sold copies. 




TABLE OF CONTENTS 


PAGE 

Preface to the Second Edition ....•••«« v 
Introduction: On The Uses of Philosophy 1 

CHAPTER I 
PLATO 

I. The Context of Plato.7 

II. Socrates. .H 

III. The Preparation of Plato.19 

IV. The Ethical Prolilem.23 

V. The Political Problem.26 

VI. The Psychological Problem.29 

VII. The Ps^ chological Solution.31 

VIII. The Political Solution.40 

IX. The Ethical Solution ...47 

X. Criticism.# 


CHAPTER II 

ARISTOTLE AND GREEK SCIENCE 

I. The Historical Background.58 

II. The Work of Aristotle.62 

III. The Foundation of Logic.67 

IV. The Organization of Science.72 

1. Greek Science before Aristotle.72 

2. Aristotle as a Naturalist.75 

3. The Foundation of Biology.76 

V. Metaphysics and the Nature of God.80 

VI. Psychology and the Nature of Art.82 

VI1. Ethics and the Nature of Happiness.85 

VIII. Politics.90 

1. Communism and Conservatism.90 

2. Marriage and Education.94 

3. Democracy and Aristocracy.98 

IX. Criticism. 101 

X. Later Life and Death.105 

























TABLE OF CONTENTS 


PAOB 

CHAPTER III 
FRANCIS BACON 

I. From Aristotle to the Renais ance. 107 

II. The Political Career of Francis Bacon.117 

III. The Essays.122 

IV. The Great Reconstruction.131 

1. The Advancement of Learning.133 

2. The New Organon ..141 

3. The Utopia of Science.148 

V. Criticism.152 

VI. Epilogue.158 


CHAPTER IV 
SPINOZA 

I. Historical and Biographical.161 

1. The Odyssey of the Jews.161 

2. The Education of Spinoza.164 

3. Excommunication.167 

4. Retirement and Death.170 

II. The Treatise on Religion and the State .173 

III. The Improvement of the Intellect .182 

IV. The Ethics .185 

1. Nature and God.187 

2. Matter and Mind.193 

3. Intelligence and Morals.197 

4. Religion and Immortality ......... 205 

V. The Political Treatise . . . • . ♦ i.j • . 208 

VI. The Influence of Spinoza 215 




















TABLE OF CONTENTS 


PAOR 

CHAPTER V 

VOLTAIRE AND THE FRENCH ENLIGHTENMENT 

I. Paris: Q^dipe .218 

II. London: The Letters on the English .22(1 

III. Cirey: Tlie Romances.228 

IV. Potsdam and Frederick.235 

V. I.es Delices: The Essay on Morals .240 

VI. Fciney: Candide .244 

VII. The Encyclopedia and the Philosophic Dictionary . .251 

VIII. Ecrasez Pin fame ..257 

IX. Voltaire and Rousseau.266 

X. Denouement.272 


CHAPTER VI 

IMMANUEL KANT AND GERMAN IDEALISM 

I. Roads to Kant. ... 276 

1. From Voltaire to Kant.277 

2. From Locke to Kant. ... 270 

3. From Rousseau to Kant.282 

II. Kant Himself.285 

III. The Critique of Pure Reason .289 

1. Transcendental Esthetic.291 

2. Transcendental Analytic.295 

3. Transcendental Dialectic.296 

IV. The Critique of Practical Reason .300 

V. On Religion and Reason ..303 

VI. On Politics and Eternal Peace 307 

VII. Criticism and Estimate i.- . . .311 

VIII. A. Note on Hegel • • • i* w i«j w itj (• • ,• 317 




















TABLE OF CONTENTS 


PAQS 

CHAPTER VII 
SCHOPENHAUER 

I. The Age.326 

II. The Man.328 

III. The World as Idea.335 

IV. The World as Will.338 

1. The Will to Live.338 

2. The Will to Reproduce.345 

V. The World as Evil.351 

VI. The Wisdom of Life.358 

1. Philosophy.358 

2. Genius.363 

3. Art.365 

4. Religion.367 

VII. The Wisdom of Death.. 369 

VIII. Criticism.. 373 


CHAPTER VIII 
HERBERT SPENCER 

I. Comte and Darwin.381 

II. The Development of Spencer.385 

III. First Principles.395 

1. The Unknowable.395 

2. Evolution.397 

IV. Biology: The Evolution of Life.402 

V. Psychology; The Evolution of Mind.405 

VI. Sociology: The Evolution of Society.408 

VII. Ethics: The Evolution of Morals.417 

VIII. Criticism.425 

1. First Principles. 425 

2. Biology and Psychology . . ..428 

3. Sociology and Ethics . . . i., . . . 429 

IX. Conclusion.... . 431 































TABLE OF CONTENTS 


PACK 

CHAPTER IX 
FRIEDRICH NIETZSCHE 

I. The Lineage of Nietzsche.435 

II. Youth.437 

III. Nietzsche and Wagner.441 

IV. The Song of Zaratliustra.* . . . 448 

V. Hero-morality. 454 

VI. The Supt.riiLTn.461 

VII. Decadence .. 465 

VIII. Aristocracy ..469 

IX. Criticism. 476 

X. Finale.484 


CHAPTER X 

CONTEMPORARY EUROPEAN PHILOSOPHERS 

I. Henri Bergson.487 

1 . The Revolt against Materialism.487 

2 . Mind and Brain.490 

3. Creative Evolution. 497 

4. Criticism ..503 

II. Benedetto Croce. 607 

1 . The Man.607 

2 . The Philosophy of the Spirit. .510 

3. What is Beauty?.614 

4. Criticism.. . . . .516 

III. Bertrand Russell.618 

1 . The Logician.618 

2 . The Reformer.523 

3. Epilogue.526 
























TABLE OF CONTENTS 


PAOB 

CHAPTER XI 

CONTEMPORARY AMERICAN PHILOSOPHERS 


Introduction.530 

I. George Santayana.632 

1 . Biographical...682 

2 . Scepticism and Animal Faith .... ... 684 

3. Reason in Science.636 

4. Reason in Religion.. , 640 

5. Reason in Society. 544 

6 . Comment.550 

II. William James ... 653 

1 . Personal.. 

2 . Pragmatism.. 

8 . Pluralism.. 

4. Comment.664 

III. John Dewey...665 

1 . Education .. 666 

2 . Instrumentalism.663 

3. Science and Politics. 571 

Conclusion.. 

Index. 670 

Glossary.687 

Bibliography.. 691 
























TO THE READER 


This book is not a complete history of philosophy. It is an 
attempt to humanize knowledge by centering the story of spec¬ 
ulative thought around certain dominant personalities. Cer¬ 
tain lesser figures have been omitted in order that those selected 
might have the space required to make them live. Hence the 
inadequate treatment of the half-legendary pre-Socratics, the 
Stoics and Epic\ireans, the Scholastics, and the epistemologists. 
The author believes that epistemology has kidnapped modern 
philosophy, and well nigh ruined it; he hopes for the time when 
the study of the knowledge-process will be recognized as the 
business of the science of psychology, and when philosophy will 
again be understood as the synthetic interpretation of all ex¬ 
perience rather than the analytic description of the mode and 
process of experience itself. Analysis belongs to science, and 
gives us knowledge; philosophy must provide a synthesis for 
wisdom. 

The author would like to record here a debt which he can 
never repay, to Alden Freeman, who gave him education, 
travel, and the inspiration of a noble and enlightened life. 
May this best of friends find in these pages—incidental and 
imperfect though they are—something not quite unworthy of 
his generosity and his faith. 

Will Durant 

New York, 1926. 




INTRODUCTIOX 


ON THE USES OF PHIEOSOPHY 

There is a pleasure in philosophy, and a lure even in the 
mirages of metaphysics, which every student feels until the 
coarse necessities of pliysical existence drag him from tlie 
heights of thouglit into tiie mart of economic strife and gain. 
Most of us have known some golden daj^s in the June of life 
when philosophy was in fact what Plato calls it, “that dear de- 
light”; when the lo^ e of a modestl}’' elusive Truth seemed more 
glorious, incomparably, than the lust for the w^ays of the flesh 
and the dross of the world. And there is always some wdstful 
remnant in us of that early wooing of wisdom. “Life has 
meaning,” we feel with Browning—“to find its meaning is my 
meat and drink.” So much of our lives is meaningless, a self¬ 
cancelling vacillation aiid futility; we strive with tlie chaos 
about us and wdthin; but we w ould believe all the while that 
there is something vital and significant in us, could w^e but 
decipher our owm souls. We want to understand; “life means 
for us constantly to transform into light and flame all that 
we are or meet w ith”; ^ w^e are like Mitj^a in The Brothers 
Karamazov —“one of those who don’t want millions, but an 
answer to their questions”; w^e want to seize the value and per¬ 
spective of passing things, and so to pull ourselves up out of 
the maelstrom of daily circumstance. We w^ant to know^ that 
the little things are little, and the big things big, before it is 
too late; we wvant to see things now" as they w ill seem forever— 
“in the light of eternity.” We w^ant to learn to laugh in the 
face of the inevitable, to smile even at the looming of death. 
We w"ant to be whole, to cobrdinale our energies by criticizing 
and harmonizing our desires; for coordinated energy is the 

1 Nietzsche, The Joyful TViVt/um, pref. 

1 



2 


INTRODUCTION 


last word in ethics and politics, and perhaps in logic and meta¬ 
physics too. ‘‘To be a philosopher,” said Thoreau, “is not 
merely to have subtle thoughts, nor even to found a school, 
but so to love wisdom as to live, according to its dictates, a 
life of simplicity, independence, magnanimity, and trust.” 
We may be sure that if we can but find wisdom, all things else 
will be added unto us. “Seek ye first the good things of the 
mind,” Bacon admonishes us, “and the rest will either be sup¬ 
plied or its loss will not be felt.” ^ Truth will not make us 
rich, but it will make us free. 

Some ungentle reader will check us here by informing us 
that philosophy is as useless as chess, as obscure as ignorance, 
and as stagnant as content. “There is nothing so absurd,” 
said Cicero, “but that it may be found in the books of the 
philosophers.” Doubtless some philosophers have had all 
sorts of wisdom except common sense; and many a philosophic 
flight has been due to the elevating power of thin air. Let us 
resolve, on this voyage of ours, to put in only at the ports of 
light, to keep out of the muddy streams of metaphysics and the 
“manj^-sounding seas” of theological dispute. But is philos¬ 
ophy stagnant.?^ Science seems always to advance, while phi¬ 
losophy seems always to lose ground. Yet this is only because 
philosophy accepts the hard and hazardous task of dealing 
with problems not yet open to the methods of science—prob¬ 
lems like good and evil, beauty and ugliness, order and free¬ 
dom, life and death; so soon as a field of inquiry yields 
knowledge susceptible of exact formulation it is called science. 
Every science begins as philosophy and ends as art; it arises 
in hypothesis and flows into achievement. Philosophy is a 
hypothetical interpretation of the unkno\\Ti (as in metaphys¬ 
ics), or of the inexactly known (as in ethics or political philos¬ 
ophy) ; it is the front trench in the siege of truth. Science 
is the captured territory; and behind it are those secure re¬ 
gions in which knowledge and art build our imperfect and 

ij)e Avkffmentii Scientiarum, VIII, 2. 



INTRODUCTION 


3 


marvelous world. Philosophy seems to stand still, perplexed; 
but only because she leaves the fruits of victory to her daugh¬ 
ters the sciences, and herself passes on, divinely discontent, to 
the uncertain and unexplored. 

Shall we be more technical? Science is analytical descrip¬ 
tion, philosophy is synthetic interpretation. Science wishes 
to resolve the whole into parts, the organism into organs, the 
obscure into the known. It docs not inquire into the values 
and ideal possibilities of things, nor into tlieir total and final 
significance; it is content to show tlieir present actuality and 
operation, it narrows its gaze resolutely to the nature and 
process of things as they are. 7^he scientist is as impartial 
as Nature in Turgenev’s poem: lie is as interested in the leg of 
a flea as in the creative throes of a genius. But the philos¬ 
opher is not content to describe the fact; he wishes to ascertain 
its relation to experience in general, and thereby to get at its 
meaning and its worth; he combines things in interpretive syn¬ 
thesis ; he tries to put together, better than before, that great 
universe-watch which the inquisitive scientist lias analytically 
taken apart. Science tells us how to heal and how to kill; 
it reduces the death rate in retail and then kills us wholesale 
in war; but only wisdom—desire coordinated in the light 
of all experience—can tell us when to heal and when to kill. 
To observe processes and to construct means is science; to 
criticize and coordinate ends is philosophy: and because in 
these days our means and instruments have multiplied beyond 
our interpretation and synthesis of ideals and ends, our life 
is full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. For a fact is 
nothing except in relation to desire; it is not complete except 
in relation to a purpose and a whole. Science without phi¬ 
losophy, facts without perspective and valuation, cannot save 
us from havoc and despair. Science gives us knowledge, but 
only philosophy can give us wisdom. 

Specifically, philosophy means and includes five fields of 
stud and discourse: logic, esthetics, ethics, politics, and meta- 



4 


INTRODUCTION 


physics. Logic is the study of ideal method in thought and 
research; observation and introspection, deduction and induc¬ 
tion, hypothesis and experiment, analysis and synthesis—such 
are the forms of human activity which logic tries to understand 
and guide; it is a dull study for most of us, and yet the great 
events in the history of thouglit are the improvements men 
have made in their methods of thinking and research. Esthet¬ 
ics is the study of ideal form, or beauty; it is the philosophy 
of art. Ethics is the study of ideal conduct; the highest 
knowledge, said Socrates, is the knowledge of good and evil, 
the knowledge of the wisdom of life. Politics is the study of 
ideal social organization (it Is not, as one might suppose, the 
art and science of capturing and keeping office) ; monarchy, 
aristocracy, democracy, socialism, anarchism, feminism—these 
are the dramatis personae of political philosophy. And 
lastly, metaphysics (whicli gets into so much trouble because 
it is not, like the other forms of philosophy, an attempt to 
coordinate the real in the light of the ideal) is the study of 
the “ultimate reality” of all things: of the real and final nature 
of “matter” (ontology), of “mind” (philosophical psychol- 
ogy), and of the interrelation of “mind” and “matter” in the 
processes of perception and knowledge (epistemology). 

These are the parts of philosophy; but so dismembered it 
loses its beauty and its joy. We shall seek it not in its shriv¬ 
elled abstractness and formality, but clothed in the living 
form of genius; we shall study not merely philosophies, but 
philosophers; we shall spend our time with the saints and mar¬ 
tyrs of thought, letting their radiant spirit play about us until 
perhaps we too, in some measure, shall partake of what Leon¬ 
ardo called “the noblest pleasure, the joy of understanding.” 
Each of these philosophers has some lesson for us, if we ap¬ 
proach him properly. “Do you know,” asks Emerson, “the 
secret of the true scholar? In every man there is something 
wherein I may learn of him; and in that I am his pupil.” 
Well, surely we may take this attitude to the master minds of 
history without hurt to our pride! And we may flatter our- 



INTRODUCTION: 6 

selves with that other thought of Emerson’s, that when genius 
speaks to us we feel a ghostly reminiscence of having ourselves, 
in our distant youth, had vaguely this self-same thought which 
genius now speaks, but which we had not art or courage to 
clothe with form and utterance. And indeed, great men speak 
to us only so far as we have ears and souls to hear them; only 
so far as we have in us the roots, at least, of that which flow¬ 
ers out in them. We too have had the experiences they had, 
but we did not suck those experiences dry of their secret and 
subtle meanings: we were not sensitive to the overtones of the 
reality that hummed about us. Genius hears the overtones, 
and the music of the spheres; genius knows what Pythagoras 
meant when he said that philosophy is the highest music. 

So let us listen to these men, ready to forgive them their 
passing errors, and eager to learn the lessons which they are so 
eager to teach. “Do you then be reasonable,” said old Soc¬ 
rates to Crito, “and do not mind whether the teachers of phi¬ 
losophy are good or bad, but think only of Philosophy herself. 
Try to examine her well and truly; and if she be evil, seek to 
turn away all men from her; but if she be what I believe she 
is, then follow her and serve her, and be of good cheer.” 




CHAPTER I 


PLATO 

I. THE CONTEXT OF PLATO 

I P you look at a map of Europe you will observe that Greece 
is a skeleton-like hand stretching its crooked fingers out 
into the Mediterranean Sea. South of it lies the great is¬ 
land of Crete, from which those grasping fingers captured, in 
the second millennium before Christ, the beginnings of civiliza¬ 
tion and culture. To the east, across the iEgean Sea, lies Asia 
Minor, quiet and apathetic now but throbbing, in pre-Platonic 
days, with industry, commerce and speculation. To the west, 
across the Ionian, Italy stands, like a leaning tower in the sea, 
and Sicily and Spain, each in those days with thriving Greek 
colonies; and at the end, the “Pillars of Hercules” (which we 
call Gibraltar), that sombre portal through which not many 
an ancient mariner dared to pass. And on the north those 
still untamed and half-barbaric regions, then named Thessaly 
and Epirus and Macedonia, from which or through which the 
vigorous bands had come which fathered the geniuses of 
Homeric and Periclean Greece. 

Look again at the map, and you see countless indentations 
of coast and elevations of land; everywhere gulfs and bays and 
the intrusive sea; and all the earth tumbled and tossed into 
mountains and hills. Greece was broken into isolated frag¬ 
ments by these natural barriers of sea and soil; travel and 
communication were far more difficult and dangerous then than 
now; every valley therefore developed its own self-sufficient 
economic life, its own sovereign government, its own institu¬ 
tions and dialect and religion and culture. In each case one 

1 



8 


THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 


or two cities, and around them, stretching up the mountain- 
slopes, an agricultural hinterland: such were the “city-states” 
of Euboea, and Locris, and ^Etolia, and Phocis, and Boeotia, 
and Achaea, and Argolis, and Elis, and Arcadia, and Messenia, 
and Laconia—with its Sparta, and Attica—with its Athens. 

Look at the map a last time, and observe the position of 
Athens: it is the farthest east of the larger cities of Greece. 
It was favorably placed to be the door through which the 
Greeks passed out to the busy cities of Asia Minor, and 
through which those elder cities sent their luxuries and their 
culture to adolescent Greece. It had an admirable port, Pi¬ 
raeus, where countless vessels might find a haven from the rough 
w'aters of the sea. And it had a great maritime fleet. 

In 490-470 b. c. Sparta and Athens, forgetting their jeal¬ 
ousies and joining their forces, fought off the effort of the 
Persians under Darius and Xerxes to turn Greece into a col¬ 
ony of an Asiatic empire. In this struggle of youthful Eu¬ 
rope against the senile East, Sparta provided the army and 
Athens the navy. The war over, Sparta demobilized her 
troops, and suffered the economic disturbances natural to that 
process; while Athens turned her navy into a merchant fleet, 
and became one of the greatest trading cities of the ancient 
world. Sparta relapsed into agricultural seclusion and stag¬ 
nation, while Athens became a busy mart and port, the meet¬ 
ing place of many races of men and of diverse cults and cus¬ 
toms, whose contact and rivalry begot comparison, analysis 
and thought. 

Traditions and dogmas rub one another down to a minimum 
in such centers of varied intercourse; where there are a thou¬ 
sand faiths we are apt to become sceptical of them all. Prob¬ 
ably the traders were the first sceptics; they had seen too much 
to believe too much; and the general disposition of merchants 
to classify all men as either fools or knaves inclined them to 
question every creed. Gradually, too, they were developing 
science; mathematics grew with the increasing complexity of ex¬ 
change, astronomy with the increasing audacity of navigation. 



PLATO 


9 


The growth of wealth brought the leisure and security which 
are the prerequisite of research and speculation; men now 
asked the stars not only for guidance on the seas but as well 
for an answer to the riddles of the universe; the first Greek phi¬ 
losophers were astronomers. ‘‘Proud of their achievements,” 
says Aristotle,^ “men pushed farther afield after the Persian 
wars; they took all knowledge for their province, and sought 
ever wider studies.” Men grew bold enough to attempt nat¬ 
ural explanations of processes and events before attributed to 
supernatural agencies and powers; magic and ritual slowly 
gave way to science and control; and philosophy l)egan. 

At first this philosophy was pliysical; it lo(>ked out upon 
the material world and asked what was tlie final and irreducible 
constituent of things. The natural termination of this line of 
thought was the materialism of Democritus (460-360 b. c.) — 
“in reality there is nothing but atoms and space.” This was 
one of the main streams of Greek speculation; it passed under¬ 
ground for a time in Plato’s day, but emerged in Epicurus 
(342-270), and became a torrent of eloquence in Lucretius 
(98-55 B. c.). But the most characteristic and fertile devel¬ 
opments of Greek philosophy took form with the Sophists, 
travelling teachers of wusdom, who looked within upon their 
own thought and nature, rather than out upon th« world of 
things. They were all clever men (Gorgias and Ilippias, for 
example), and many of them were profound (Protagoras, 
Prodicus) ; there is hardly a problem or a solution in our cur¬ 
rent philosophy of mind and conduct which thej^ did not 
realize and discuss. They asked questions about anything; 
they stood unafraid in the presence of religious or political ta¬ 
boos; and boldly subpoenaed ever}^ creed and institution to 
appear before the judgment-seat of reason. In politics they 
divided into two schools. One, like Kousseau, argued that 
nature is good, and civilization bad; that by nature all men 
are equal, becoming unequal only by class-made institutions: 
and that law is an invention of the strong to chain and 
I Politics, 1341. 



10 


THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 


rule the weak. Another school, like Nietzsche, claimed that 
nature is beyond good and evil; that by nature all men are 
unequal; that morality is an invention of the weak to limit and 
deter the strong; that power is the supreme virtue and the 
supreme desire of man; and that of all forms of government 
the wisest and most natural is aristocracy. 

No doubt this attack on democracy reflected the rise of a 
wealthy minority at Athens which called itself the Oligarchical 
Party, and denounced democracy as an incompetent sham. 
In a sense there was not much democracy to denounce; for of 
the 400,000 inhabitants of Athens 250,000 were slaves, with¬ 
out political rights of any kind; and of the 150,000 freemen 
or citizens only a small number presented themselves at the 
Ecclesia, or general assembly, where the policies of the state 
were discussed and determined. Yet what democracy they had 
was as thorough as never since; the general assembly was the 
supreme power; and the highest official body, the Dikasteria, 
or supreme court, consisted of over a thousand members (to 
make bribery expensive), selected by alphabetical rote-from 
the roll of all the citizens. No institution could have been 
more democratic, nor, said its opponents, more absurd. 

During the great generation-long Peloponnesian war (430- 
400 B. c.), in which the military power of Sparta fought and 
at last defeated the naval power of Athens, the Athenian oli¬ 
garchic party, led by Critias, advocated the abandonment of 
democracy on the score of its inefficiency in war, and secretly 
lauded the aristocratic government of Sparta. Many of the 
oligarchic leaders were exiled; but when at last Athens sur¬ 
rendered, one of the peace conditions imposed by Sparta was 
the recall of these exiled aristocrats. They had hardly re¬ 
turned when, with Critias at their head, they declared a rich 
man’s revolution against the “democratic” party that had 
ruled during the disastrous war. The revolution failed, and 
C ritias was killed on the field of battle. 

Now Critias was a pupil of Socrates, and an uncle of 
Plata 



PLATO 


11 


II. SOCRATES 

If we may judge from the bust that has come down to us 
as part of the ruins of ancient sculpture, Socrates was as fai? 
from being handsome as even a philosopher can be. A bald 
head, a great round face, deep-set staring eyes, a broad and 
flowery nose that gave vivid testimony to many a Symposium 
—it was rather the head of a porter than that of the most 
famous of philosophers. But if we look again we see, through 
the crudity of the stone, something of that human kindliness 
and unassuming simplicity which made this homely thinker a 
teacher beloved of the finest youths in Atliens. We know so 
little about him, and yet we know him so much more intimately 
than the aristocratic Plato or the reserved and scholarly Aris¬ 
totle. Across two thousand three hundred years we can yet 
see his ungainly figure, clad always in the same rumpled tunic, 
walking leisurely through the agora, undisturbed by the bed¬ 
lam of politics, buttonholing his prey, gathering the young 
and the learned about him, luring them into some shady nook 
of the temple porticos, and asking them to define their terms. 

They were a motley crowd, these youths who flocked about 
him and helped him to create European philosojihy. There 
were rich young men like Plato and Alcibiades, who relished 
his satirical analysis of Athenian deniocracy; there were sO' 
cialists like Antisthenes, who liked the master’s careless pov¬ 
erty, and made a religion of it; there was even an anarchist 
or two among them, like Aristippus, who aspired to a world 
in which there would be neither masters nor slaves, and all 
would be as worrilcssly free as Socrates. Ah the problems 
that agitate human society to-day, and provide the material of 
youth’s endless debate, agitated as well that little band of 
thinkers and talkers, who felt, with their teacher, that life 
without discourse would be unworth 3 ?^ of a man. Everj^ school 
of social thought had there its representative, and perhaps 
its origin. 

How the master lived hardly anybody knew. He never 



12 THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 

worked, and he took no thought of the morrow. He ate when 
his disciples asked him to honor their tables; they must have 
liked his company, for he gave every indication of physiolog¬ 
ical prosperity. He was not so welcome at home, for he ne¬ 
glected his wife and children; and from Xanthippe’s point of 
view he was a good-for-nothing idler who brought to his fam¬ 
ily more notoriety than bread. Xanthippe liked to talk al¬ 
most as much as Socrates did; and they seem to have had 
some dialogues which Plato failed to record. Yet she, too, 
loved him, and could not contentedly see him die even after 
three-score years and ten. 

Why did his pupils reverence him so.'^ Perhaps because he 
was a man as well as a philosopher: he had at great risk saved 
the life of Alcibiades in battle; and he could drink like a 
gentleman—without fear and without excess. But no doubt 
ihey liked best in him the modesty of his wisdom: he did not 
ilaim to have wisdom, but only to seek it lovingly; he was 
risdom’s amateury not its professional. It was said that the 
oracle at Delphi, with unusual good sense, had pronounced him 
the wisest of the Greeks; and he had interpreted this as an 
approval of the agnosticism which was the starting-point of 
his philosophy—“One thing only I know, and that is that I 
know nothing.” Philosophy begins when one learns to doubt 
•—particularly to doubt one’s cherished beliefs, one’s dogmas 
and one’s axioms. Who knows how these cherished beliefs be¬ 
came certainties with us, and whether some secret wish did 
not furtively beget them, clothing desire in the dress of 
thought.?^ There is no real philosophy until the mind turns 
round and examines itself. Gnothi seautoriy said Socrates: 
Know thyself. 

There had been philosophers before him, of course: strong 
men like Thales and Heraclitus, subtle men like Parmenides 
and Zeno of Elea, seers like Pythagoras and Empedocles; but 
for the most part they had been physical philosophers; they 
had sought for the physis or nature of external things, the 
laws and constituents of the material and measurable world. 



PLATO 


13 


That is very good, said Socrates; but there is an infinitely 
worthier subject for philosophers than all these trees and 
stones, and even all those stars; there is the mind of man. 
What is man, and what can he become? 

So he went about prying into the human soul, uncovering 
assumptions and questioning certainties. If men discoursed 
too readily of justice, he asked them, quietly, td U ?—what is it? 
What do you mean by these abstract words with which you 
so easily settle the problems of life and death? What do you 
mean by honor, virtue, morality, patriotism? What do 
you mean by yourself? It was with such moral and psycho¬ 
logical questions that Socrates loved to deal. Some who suf¬ 
fered from this ‘‘Socratic method,” this demand for accurate 
definitions, and clear thinking, and exact analysis, objected 
that he asked more than he answered, and left men’s minds 
more confused than before. Nevertheless he bequeathed to 
philosophy two very definite answers to two of our most diffi¬ 
cult problems—What is the meaning of virtue? and What is 
the best state? 

No topics could have been more vital than these to the young 
Athenians of that generation. * The Sophists had destroyed 
the faith these youths had once had in the gods and goddesses 
of Olympus, and in the moral code that had taken its sanction 
so largely from the fear men had for these ubiquitous and 
innumerable deities; apparently there was no reason now why 
a man should not do as he pleased, so long as he remained 
within the law. A disintegrating individualism had weakened 
the Athenian character, and left t!ie city a prey at last to tlie 
sternly-nurtured Spartans. And as for the state, what could 
have been more ridiculous than this mob-led, passion-ridden 
democracy, this government by a debating-society, this precip¬ 
itate selection and dismissal and execution of generals, this 
unchoice choice of simple farmers and tradesmen, in alpha¬ 
betical rotation, as members of the supreme court of the land? 
How could a new and natural morality be developed in Athens, 
and how could the state be saved 



14 


THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 


It was his reply to these questions that gave Socrates death 
and immortality. The older citizens would have honored him 
had he tried to restore tlie ancient polytheistic faith; if he had 
led his band of emancipated souls to the temples and the sacred 
groves, and bade them sacrifice again to the gods of their 
fathers. But he felt that that was a hopeless and suicidal 
policy, a progress backward, into and not ‘‘over the tombs.” 
He had his own religious faith: he believed in one God, and 
hoped in his modest way that death would not quite destroy 
him; ^ but he knew that a lasting moral code could not be 
based upon so uncertain a theology. If one could build a sys¬ 
tem of morality absolutely independent of religious doctrine, 
as valid for the atheist as for the pietist, then theologies might 
come and go without loosening the moral cement that makes of 
wilful individuals the peaceful citizens of a community. 

If, for example, good meant intelligent^ and virtue meant 
wisdom; if men could be taught to sec clearly their real inter¬ 
ests, to see afar the distant results of tlicir deeds, to criticize 
and coordinate their desires out of a self-cancelling chaos into 
a purposive and creative harmony—this, perhaps, would pro¬ 
vide for the educated and sophisticated man the morality which 
in the unlettered relies on reiterated precepts and external 
control. Perhaps all sin is error, partial vision, foolishness? 
The intelligent man may have the same violent and unsocial 
impulses as the ignorant man, but surely he will control them 
better, and slip less often into imitation of the beast. And in 
an intelligently administered society—one that returned to 
the individual, in widened powers, more than it took from him 
in restricted liberty—the advantage of every man would lie 
in social and loyal conduct, and only clear sight would be 
needed to ensure peace and order and good will. 

But if the government itself is a chaos and an absurdity, 
if it rules without helping, and commands without leading,— 

iCf. Voltaire’s story of the two Athenians conversing about Socrates: 
*‘That is the atheist who says there is only one God.” Philosophical Dictiof^* 
ary, art. “Socrates.’^ 



PLATO 


16 


how can we persuade the individual, in such a state, to obey 
the laws and confine his self-seeking within the circle of the 
total good? No wonder an Alcibiades turns against a state 
that distrusts ability, and reverences number more than knowl¬ 
edge. No wonder there is chaos where there is no thought, 
and the crowd decides in haste and ignorance, to repent at 
leisure and in desolation. Is it not a base superstition that 
mere numbers will give wisdom? On the contrary is it not 
universally seen that men in crowds are more foolish and more 
violent and more cruel than men separate and alone? Is it 
not shameful that men should be ruled by orators, who ‘‘go 
ringing on in long harangues, like brazen pots which, when 
struck, continue to sound till a hand is put upon them’\'^ ^ 
Surely the management of a state is a matter for which men 
cannot be too intelligent, a matter that needs the unliindered 
thought of the finest minds. How can a society be saved, or 
be strong, except it be led by i^s wisest men? 

Imagine the reaction of the popular party at Athens to 
this aristocratic gospel at a time when war seemed to require 
the silencing of all criticism, and when the wealthy and let¬ 
tered minority were plotting a revolution. Consider the feel¬ 
ings of Anytus, the democratic leader whose son had become 
a pupil of Socrates, and had then turned against the gods of 
his father, and laughed in his father’s face. Had not Aris¬ 
tophanes predicted precisely such a result from this specious 
replacement of the old virtues by unsocial intelligence? “ 

Then the revolution came, and men fought for it and 

1 Plato’s Protagorasf sect. 329. 

2 In The Clouds (423 b. c.) Aristophanes had made fcreat fun of Socrates 
and his “Thinking-shop,” where one learned the art of proving one’s self 
right, however wrong. Phidijipides beats his father on the ground that his 
father used to beat him, and every debt should be repaid. The satire seems 
to have been good-natured enough: we find Aristophams frequently in the 
company of Socrates; they agreed in their scorn of democracy; and Plato 
recommended The Clouds to Dionysius. As the play was brought out twenty- 
four years before the trial of Socrates, it could have had no great share Id 
bringing the tragic denouement of the philosopher’s life. 



16 THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 

against, bitterly and to the death. When the democracy won, 
the fate of Socrates was decided: he was the intellectual 
leader of the revolting party, however pacific he might himself 
have been; he was llie source of the hated aristocratic philos¬ 
ophy; he was the corrupter of youths drunk with debate. It 
would be better, said Anytus and Meletus, that Socrates should 
die. 

The rest of the story all the world knows, for Plato wrote 
it down in prose more beautiful than poetry. We are priv¬ 
ileged to read for ourselves that simple and courageous (if 
not legendary) “apology,” or defence, in whicli the first martj^r 
of philosophy proclaimed the rights and necessity of free 
thought, upheld his value to the state, and refused to beg 
for mercy from the crowd whom he had always contemned. 
They had the power to pardon him; he disdained to make the 
appeal. It was a singular confirmation of his theories, that 
the judges should wish to let him go, while the angry crowd 
voted for his death. Had he not denied the gods? Woe to 
him who teaches men faster than they can learn. 

So they decreed that he should drink the hemlock. His 
friends came to his prison and offered him an easy escape; 
they had bribed all the officials who stood between him and 
liberty. He refused. He was seventy years old now (399 
B. c.) ; perhai)s he thought it w^as time for him to die, and that 
he could never again die so usefully. “Be of good cheer,” he 
told his sorrowing friends, “and say that you are burying my 
body only.” “When he had spoken these words,” says Plato, 
in one of the great passages of the world’s literature, ^ 

he arose and went into the bath-chamber with Criio, who 
bade us wait; and we waited, talking and thinking of . . . 
the greatness of our sorrow; he was like a father of whom we 
were being bereaved, and we w ere about to pass the rest of our 
lives as orphans. ... Now the hour of sunset was near, for a 
good deal of time had passed while he was within. When he 

iPhaedo, sections 116 - 118 , tr. Jowett 



PLATO 


IT 


came out, he sat down with us again, . . . but not much was 
said. Soon the jailer . . . entered and stood by him, say- 
ing: “To you, Socrates, whom I know to be the noblest and 
gentlest and best of all who ever came to this place, I will 
not impute the angry feelings of other men, who rage and 
swear at me when, in obedience to the authorities, I bid them 
drink the poison—indeed I am sure that you will not be 
angry with me; for others, as you are aware, and not I, are 
the guilty cause. And so fare you wdh and try to bear 
lightly what must needs be; you know my errand.” Then 
bursting into tears he turned away and went out. 

Socrates looked at him and said: “I return your good 
wishes, and will do as you bid.” Then turning to us, he said, 
“How charming the man is; since I have been in prison he 
has always been coining to see me, and now see how^ gener¬ 
ously he sorrows for me. But we must do ^^s he says, Crito; 
let the cup be brought, if the poison is prepared; if not, let 
the attendant prepare some.” 

“Yet,” said Crito, “the sun is still upon the hill-tops, and 
many a one has taken the draught late; and after the an¬ 
nouncement has been made to him he has eaten and drunk, 
and indulged in sensual delights; do not hasten then, there 
is still time.” 

Socrates said: “Yes, Crito, and they of whom you speak 
are right in doing thus, for they think that they will gain by 
the delay; but I am right in not doing thus, for I do not 
think that I should gain anything by drinking the poison a 
little later; I should be sparing and saving a life which is 
already gone; I could only laugh at myself for this. Please 
then to do as I say, and not to refuse me.” 

Crito, when he heard this, made a sign to the servant; and 
the servant went in, and remained for some time, and then 
returned with the jailer carrying the cup of poison. Soc¬ 
rates said: “You, my good friend, who are experienced in 
these matters, shall give me directions how I am to proceed.” 
The man answered: “You have only to walk about until 
your legs are heavy, and then to lie down, and the poison wdll 
act.” At the same time he handed the cup to Socrates, who 
in the easiest and gentlest manner, without the least fear or 



18 


THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 


change of color or feature, looking at the man with all his 
eyes, as his manner was, took the cup and said: ‘^What do 
you say about making a libation out of this cup to any god? 
May I, or not?” The man answered: ^‘\Ve only prepare, 
Socrates, just so much as we deem enough.” ‘‘I under¬ 
stand,” he said; ^‘yct I may and must pray to the gods to 
prosper my journey from this to that other world—may this 
then, which is my prayer, be granted to me.” Then, holding 
the cup to his lips, quite readily and cheerfully he drank the 
poison. 

And hitherto most of us had been able to control our sor¬ 
row ; but now when we saw him drinking, and saw too that he 
had finished the draught, we could no longer forbear, and in 
spite of myself iny own tears were flowing fast; so that I 
covered my face and wept over myself; for certainly I was 
not weeping over him, but at the thought of my own calam¬ 
ity in having lost such a companion. Nor was I the first, 
for Crito, when he found himself unable to restrain his tears, 
had got up and moved away, and I followed; and at that 
moment Apollodorus, who had been weeping all the time, 
broke out into a loud cry which made cowards of us all. 
Socrates alone retained his calmness: “What is this strange 
outcry?” he said. “I sent away the women mainly in order 
that they might not offend in this way, for I have heard that 
a man should die in peace. Be quiet, then, and have pa¬ 
tience.” When we heard that, we were ashamed, and re¬ 
strained our tears; and he walked about until, as he said, his 
legs began to fail, and then he lay on bis back, according to 
the directions, and the man who gave him the poison now 
and then looked at his feet and legs; and after a while he 
pressed liis foot hard and asked him if he could feel; and he 
said, “No”; and then his leg, and so upwards and upwards, 
and showed us that he was cold and stiff. And then Soc¬ 
rates felt them himself, and said, “When the poison reaches 
the heart, that will be the end.” He was beginning to grow 
cold about the groin, when he uncovered his face (for he had 
covered himself up) and said,—they were his last words,— 
‘^Crito, I owe a cock to Asclepius; will you remember to pay 
the debt?” “The debt shall be paid,” said Crito; “is there 



PLATO 


19 


anything elsc?’^ There was no answer to this question; but 
in a minute or two a movement was heard, and the attendant 
uncovered him; his eyes were set, and Crito closed liis eyes 
and mouth. 

Such was the end of our friend, whom I may truly call the 
wisest, the justest, and best of all the men whom I have ever 
known. 


ni. THE PREPARATION OF PT.ATO 

Plato’s meeting witli Socrates had been a turning point in 
his life. He had been brought up in comfort, and perhaps in 
wealth; he was a handsome and vigorous youth—called Plato, 
it is said, because of the breadth of his shoulders; he had ex¬ 
celled as a soldier, and had twice won prizes at the Isthmian 
games. Philosophers are not apt to develop out of such an 
adolescence. But Plato’s subtle soul had found a new joy in 
the ‘‘dialectic” game of Socrates; it was a delight to behold 
the master deflating dogmas and puncturing presumptions 
with the sharp point of his questions; Plato entered into this 
sport as he had in a coarser kind of wrestling; and under the 
guidance of the old “gad-fly” (as Socrates called himself) he 
passed from mere debate to careful analysis and fruitful dis¬ 
cussion. He became a very passionate lover of wisdom, and of 
his teacher. “I thank God,” he used to say, “that I was born 
Greek and not barbarian, freeman and not slave, man and not 
woman; but above all, that I was born in the age of Socrates.” 

He was twenty-eight when the master died; and this tragic 
end of a quiet life left its mark on every phase of the pupil’s 
thought. It filled him with such a scorn of democracy, such 
a hatred of the mob, as even his aristocratic lineage and breed¬ 
ing had hardly engendered in him; it led him to a Catonic re¬ 
solve that democracy must be destroyed, to be replaced by the 
rule of the w isest and the best. It became the absorbing prob¬ 
lem of his life to find a method whereby the w isest and the best 
might be discovered, and then enabled and persuaded to rule. 

Meanwhile his efforts to save Socrates had r *arked him out 



w 


THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 


for suspicion by the democratic leaders; his friends urged that 
Athens was unsafe for him, that it was an admirably propitious 
moment for him to see the world. And so, in that year 399 
B. c., he set out. Where he went we cannot for certain say; 
there is a merry war of the authorities for every turn of his 
route. He seems to have gone first to Egypt; and was some¬ 
what shocked to hear from the priestly class which ruled that 
land, that Greece was an infant-state, without stabilizing tra¬ 
ditions or profound culture, not yet therefore to be taken 
seriously by these sphinxly pundits of the Nile. But nothing 
so educates us as a shock; the memory of this learned caste, 
theocratically ruling a static agricultural people, remained 
alive in Plato’s thought, and played its part in writing his 
Utopia. And then off he sailed to Sicily, and to Italy; there 
he joined for a time the school or sect which the great Py¬ 
thagoras had founded; and once again his susceptible mind 
was marked with the memory of a small group of men set aside 
for scholarship and rule, living a plain life despite the posses¬ 
sion of power. Twelve years he wandered, imbibing wisdom 
from every source, sitting at every shrine, tasting every creed. 
6ome would have it that he went to Judea and was moulded 
for a while by the tradition of the almost socialistic prophets; 
and even that he found his way to the banks of the Ganges, and 
learned the mystic meditations of the Hindus. We do not 
know. 

He returned to Athens in 387 b. a man of forty now, 
ripened to maturity by the variety ot many peoples and the 
wisdom of many lands. He had lost a little of the hot enthusi¬ 
asms of youth, but he had gained a perspective of thought in 
which every extreme was seen as a half-truth, and the many 
aspects of every problem blended into a distributive justice 
to every facet of the truth. He had knowledge, and he had 
art; for once the philosopher and the poet lived in one soul; 
and he created for himself a medium of expression in which 
both beauty and truth might find room and play—the dia¬ 
logue. Never before, we mav believe, had philosophy assumed 



PLATO 


21 


so brilliant a garb; and surely never since. Even in transla¬ 
tion this style shines and sparkles and leaps and hubbies over. 
‘‘Plato,” says one of his lovers, Shelley, “exhibits the rare 
union of close and subtle logic with the Pythian enthusiasm 
of poetry, melted by the splendor and harmony of his periods 
into one irresistible stream of musical impressions, which hurry 
the persuasions onward as in a breathless career.” ^ It was 
not for nothing that the young philosopher liad begun as a 
dramatist. 


The difficulty in understanding Plato lies precisely in this 
intoxicating mixture of philosophy and poetry, of science and 
art; we cannot always tell in which character of the dialogue 
the author speaks, nor in which form; whether he is literal 
or speaks in metaphor, whether he jests or is in earnest. His 
love of jest and irony and myth leaves us at times baffled; al¬ 
most we could say of him that he did not teach except iK pa:*- 
ables. “Shall I, as an older person, speak to you, as younger 
men, in apologue or myth.?’^ asks his Protagoras.- These dia¬ 
logues, we are told, were written by Plato for the general 
reading public of his day: by their conversational method, 
their lively war of pros and cons, and their gradual develop¬ 
ment and frequent repetition of every important argument, 
they were explicitly adapted (obscure though they may seem 
to us now) to the understanding of the man who must taste 
philosophy as an occasional luxury, and who is compelled by 
the brevity of life to read as he who runs may read. There¬ 
fore we must be prepared to find in these dialogues much that 
is playful and metaphorical; much that is unintelligible ex¬ 
cept to scholars learned in the social and literary minutiae of 
Plato’s time; much that today will seem irrelevant and fanci¬ 
ful, but might well have served as the very sauce and flavor 
by which a heavy dish of thought was made digestible for 


minds unused to philosophic fare. 

Let us confess, too, that Plato has in sufficient abundance 

1 Quoted by Barker, Greek Political Theory, London, 1918, p. 5. I 

9 Protagoras, 320. /. 



n THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 

the qualities which he condemns. He inveighs against poets 
and their myths, and proceeds to add one to the number of 
poets and hundreds to the number of myths. He complains of 
the priests (who go about preaching hell and offering re¬ 
demption from it for a consideration—cf. The Republic^ 364}), 
but he himself is a priest, a theologian, a preacher, a super¬ 
moralist, a Savonarola denouncing art and inviting vanities 
to the fire. He acknowledges, Shakespeare-like, that ‘^com¬ 
parisons arc slippery’’ {Sophist^ 231), but he slips out of one 
into another and another and anotlier; he condemns the Soph¬ 
ists as phrase-mongering disputants, but he himself is not 
above chopping logic like a sophomore. Faguet parodies him: 
“The whole is greater than the part.^—Surely.—-And the part 
is less than the whole —Yes.—. . . Therefore, clearly, phi¬ 
losophers should rule the state—^What is that? —It is evident; 
let us go over it again.” ^ 

But this is the worst that we can say of him; and after it is 
said, the Dialogues remain one of the priceless treasures of the 
world.^ The best of them. The Republic^ is a complete trea¬ 
tise in itself, Plato reduced to a book; here we shall find his 
metaphysics, his theology, his ethics, his psychology, his 
pedagogy, his politics, his theory of art. Here we shall find 
problems reeking with modernity and contemporary savor: 
communism and socialism, feminism and birth-control and 
eugenics, Nietzschean problems of morality and aristocracy, 
Rousseauian problems of return to nature and libertarian ed¬ 
ucation, Bergsonian elan vital and Freudian psychoanalysis 
—everything is here. It is a feast for the elitCy served by 
an unstinting host. “Plato is philosophy, and philosophy 
Plato,” says Emerson; and awards to The Republic the words^ 

"^Pour qu*on Use Platon, Paris, 1905, p. 4. 

2 The most important of the dialogues are: The Apology of Socrates^ 
Crito, Plurdo, The Symposium, Phadrus, Gorgias, Parmenides, and The 
Statesman. The most important parts of The Republic (references are U 
marginally-numbered sections, not to pages) are 327-82, 330-77, 384-5, 392'< 
426, 433-5, 441-76, 481-3, 512-20, 572-94. The best edition is JowetPs; the 
most convenient is in the Everyman series. References are to The Repuhlio 
nnless otherwise stated. 



PLATO 23 

of Omar about the Koran: ^‘Burn the libraries, for their value 
is in this book.” ' 

Let us study The Republic. 

IV. THE ETHICAL PROBLEM 

The discussion takes place in the house of Cephalus, a 
tvealthy aristocrat. In the group arc Glaucon and Adeiinan- 
tus, brothers of Plato; and Thrasymachus, a gruff and ex¬ 
citable Sophist. Socrates, who serves as the mouthpiece of 
Plato in the dialogue, asks Ceyihalus: 

‘‘What do you consider to be the greatest blessing which 
you have reaped from wealth 

Cephalus answers that wealth is a blessing to him chiefly 
because it enables him to be generous and honest and just. 
•Socrates, after his sly fashion, asks him just what he means 
oy justice; and therewith lets loose the dogs of philosophic 
war. For nothing is so difficult as definition, nor anything so 
severe a test and exercise of mental clarity and skill. Socrates 
finds it a simple matter to destroy one after another the def¬ 
initions offered him; until at last Thrasymachus, less patient 
than the rest, breaks out “with a roar”: 

“What folly has possessed you, Socrates? And why do 
you others all drop down at one another’s feet in this silly 
way? I say that if you want to know what justice is, you 
should answer and not ask, and shouldn’t pride yourself on 
refuting others. . . . For there arc many who can ask but 
cannot answer” (336). 

Socrates is not frightened; he continues to ask rather than 
answer; and after a minute of parry and thrust he provokes 
the unwary Thrasymachus to commit himself to a definition: 

“Listen, then,” says the angry Sophist, “I proclaim that 
might is right, and justice is the interest of the stronger. 

. . . The different forms of government make laws, demo¬ 
cratic, aristocratic, or autocratic, with a view to their re- 

1 Representative Men, p. 41. 



24i 


THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 


spective interests; and these laws, so made by them to serve 
their interests, they deliver to their subjects as ‘justice,’ and 
punish as ‘unjust’ anyone who transgresses them. ... I am 
speaking of injustice on a large scale; and my meaning will 
be most clearly seen in autocracy, which by fraud and force 
takes away the property of others, not retail but wholesale. 
Now >vhen a man has taken away the money of the citizens 
and made slaves of them, then, instead of swindler and thief 
he is called happy and blessed by all. For injustice is cen¬ 
sured because those who censure it are afraid of suffering, 
and not from any scruple they might have of doing injustice 
themselves” (338-4*1). 

This, of course, is the doctrine which our ow^n day more or 
less correctly associates with the name of Nietzsche. “Verily 
I laughed many a time over the w^eaklings who thought them¬ 
selves good because they had lame paws.” ^ Stirner expressed 
the idea briefly when he said that “a handful of might is better 
than a bagful of right.” Perhaps nowhere in the history of 
philosophy is the doctrine better formulated than by Plato 
himself in another dialogue, Gorgias^ (483 f), where the Soph¬ 
ist Callicles denounces morality as an invention of the weak to 
neutralize the strength of the strong.-^" 

They distribute praise and censure with a view to their 
own interests; they say that dishonesty is shameful and un¬ 
just—meaning by dishonesty the desire to have more than 
their neighbors; for knowing their own inferiority, they 
would be only too glad to have equality. . . . But if there 
were a man who had sufficient force (enter the Superman), 
he would shake off and break through and escape from all 
this; he would trample under foot all our formulas and spells 
and charms, and all our laws, that sin against nature. . . . 
He who would truly live ought to allow his desires to wax to 
the uttermost; but when they have grown to their greatest 
he should have courage and intelligence to minister to them, 
and to satisfy all his longings. And this I affirm to be nat¬ 
ural justice and nobility. But the many cannot do this; 

^Thus Spake Zarathuetra^ New York, 1906, p. 166, 



PLATO 


25 


and therefore they blame such persons, because they are 
ashamed of their own inability, which they desire to conceal; 
and hence they call intemperance base. . . . They enslave 
the nobler natures, and they praise justice only because they 
are cowards. 

This justice is a morality not for men but for foot-men 
{oude gar andros alV andrapodou tinos) ; it is a slave-morality, 
not a hero-morality; the real virtues of a man are courage 
(andreia) and intelligence (phronesis) 

Perhaps this hard “immoralism” reflects the development 
of imperialism in the foreign policy of Atliens, and its ruthless 
treatment of weaker states.^ ‘‘Your empire,” said Pericles in 
the oration which Thucydides invents for him, “is based on 
your own strength rather than the good will of your subjects.” 
And the same historian reports the Athenian envoys coercing 
Melos into joining Athens in the war against Sparta: “You 
know as well as we do that right, as the world goes, is only in 
question for equals in power; the strong do w^hat they can, 
and the weak suffer what they must.” ® We have here the 
fundamental problem of ethics, the crux of the theory of moral 
conduct. What is justice?—shall we seek righteousness, or 
shall we seek powxr.'^—is it better to be good, or to be strong? 

How does Socrates—i. e., Plato—meet the challenge of this 
theory? At first he does not meet it at all. He points out 
that justice is a relation among individuals, depending on social 
organization; and that in consequence it can be studied better 
as part of the structure of a community than as a quality of 
personal conduct. If, he suggests, we can picture a just 
state, we shall be in a better position to describe a just in¬ 
dividual. Plato excuses himself for this digression on the 
score that in testing a man’s vision we make him read first 
large type, then smaller; so, he argues, it is easier to analyze 
justice on a large scale than on the small scale of individual 

1 Oorgiaa 491; cf. Machiavelli’s definition of virtU as intellect plus force; 

2 Barker, p. 73. 

* History of the Peloponnesian War, v. 105. 



86 


THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 


behavior. But we need not be deceived: in truth the Master 
is patching two books together, and uses the argument as a 
seam. He wishes not only to discuss the problems of personal 
morality, but the problems of social and political reconstruc¬ 
tion as well. He has a Utopia up his sleeve, and is resolved to 
produce it. It is easy to forgive him, for the digression forms 
the core and value of his book. 

v. THE POLITICAL. PROBLEM 

Justice would be a simple matter, says Plato, if men were 
simple; an anarchist communism would suffice. For a moment 
he gives his imagination reign: 

First, then, let us consider what will be their way of life. 

, . . Will they not produce corn, and wine, and clothes, and 
shoes, and build houses for themselves? And when they are 
housed tliey will work in summer commonly stripped and 
barefoot, but in winter substantially clothed and shod. 
They will feed on barley and wheat, baking the wheat and 
kneading the flour, making noble puddings and loaves; these 
they will serve up on a mat of reed or clean leaves, them¬ 
selves reclining the while upon beds of yew or myrtle boughs. 
And they and their children will feast, drinking of the wune 
which they have made, wearing garlands on their heads, and 
having the praises of the gods on their lips, living in sweet 
society, and having a care that their families do not exceed 
their means; for they will have an eye to poverty or war. 
... Of course they will have a relish—salt, and olives, and 
cheese, and onions, and cabbages or other country herbs 
which are fit for boiling; and we shall give them a dessert of 
figs, and pulse, and beans, and myrtle-berries, and beech¬ 
nuts, which they will roast at the fire, drinking in modera¬ 
tion. And with such a diet they may be expected to live in 
peace to a good old age, and bequeath a similar life to their 
children after them (372). 

Observe here the passing reference to the control of popu¬ 
lation (by infanticide, presumably), to vegetarianism, and to 



PLATO 


27 


a ^‘return to nature,” to the primitive simplicity which Hebrew 
legend pictures in the Garden of Eden. The whole has the 
sound of Diogenes the “Cynic,” who, as the epithet implied, 
thought we should “turn and live with the animals, they arc 
so placid and self-contained”; and for a moment we are likely 
to classify Plato with St. Simon and Fourier and William 
Morris and Tolstoi. But he is a little more sce])tical than 
these men of kindly faith; he passes quietly on to tlic question, 
Why is it that such a simple paradise as he has described never 
comes.?—w^hy is it that these Utopias never arrive upon the 
map.? 

He answers, because of greed and luxury. Men arc not 
content with a simple life: they are acquisitive, ambitious, 
competitive, and jealous; they soon tire of what they have, 
and pine for what they have not; and they seldom desire any¬ 
thing unless it belongs to others. The result is the encroach¬ 
ment of one group upon the territory of another, the rivalry 
of groups for the resources of the soil, and then war. Trade 
and finance develop, and bring new class-divisions. “Any 
ordinary city is in fact two cities, one the city of the poor, the 
other of the rich, each at war with the other; and in either 
division there are smaller ones—you would make a great 
mistake if you treated them as single states” (423). A mer¬ 
cantile bourgeoisie arises, whose members seek social position 
through wealth and conspicuous consumption: “they will 
spend large sums of money on their wives” (548), These 
changes in the distribution of wealth produce political 
changes: as the wealth of the merchant over-reaches that of 
the land-owner, aristocracy gives way to a plutocratic oligar¬ 
chy—^%vealthy traders and bankers rule the state. Then states¬ 
manship, which is the coordination of social forces and the ad¬ 
justment of policy to growth, is replaced by politics, which 
is the strategy of party and the lust for the spoils of office. 

Every form of government tends to perish by excess of its 
basic principle. Aristocracy ruins itself by limiting too nar¬ 
rowly the circle within which power is confined; oligarchy 



28 THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 

ruins itself by the incautious scramble for immediate wealth. 
In either case the end is revolution. When revolution comes 
it may seem to arise from little causes and petty whims; but 
though it may spring from slight occasions it is the precipitate 
result of grave and accumulated wrongs; when a body is 
weakened by neglected ills, the merest exposure may bring 
serious disease (556). “Then democracy comes: the poor 
overcome their opponents, slaughtering some and banishing 
the rest; and give to the people an equal share of freedom and 
power” (557). 

But even democracy ruins itself by excess—of democracy. 
Its basic principle is the equal right of all to hold office and 
determine public policy. This is at first glance a delightful 
arrangement; it becomes disastrous because the people are 
not properly equipped by education to select the best rulers 
and the wisest courses (588). “As to the people they have 
no understanding, and only repeat what their rulers are 
pleased to tell them” {Protagoras, 317); to get a doctrine ac¬ 
cepted or rejected it is only necessary to have it praised or 
ridiculed in a popular play (a hit, no doubt, at Aristophanes, 
whose comedies attacked almost every new idea). Mob-rule 
is a rough sea for the ship of state to ride; every wind of 
oratory stirs up the waters and deflects the course. The up¬ 
shot of such a democracy is tyranny or autocracy; the crowd 
so loves flattery, it is so “hungry for honey,” that at last the 
wiliest and most unscrupulous flatterer, calling himself the 
“protector of the people” rises to supreme power (565). 
(Consider the history of Rome.) 

The more Plato thinks of it, the more astounded he is at 
the folly of leaving to mob caprice and gullibility the selec¬ 
tion of political officials—not to speak of leaving it to those 
shady and wealth-serving strategists who pull the oligarchic 
wires behind the democratic stage. Plato complains that 
whereas in simpler matters—^like shoe-making—we think only 
a specially-trained person will serve our purpose, in politics 



PLATO 


29 


we presume that every one who know;3 how to get votes knows 
how to administer a city or a state. When we are ill we call 
for a trained physician, whose degree is a guarantee of specific 
preparation and technical competence—we do not ask for the 
handsomest physician, or the most eloquent one; well then, 
when the whole state is ill should we not look for the service 
and guidance of the wisest and the best.^ To devise a method 
of barring incompetence and knavery from public office, and 
of selecting and preparing the best to rule for the common 
good—that is the problem of political philosophy. 


VI. THE PSYCHOLOGICAL PROBLEM 

But behind these political problems h'es the nature of man; 
to understand politics, we must, unfortunately, understand 
psychology. “Like man, like state” ( 575 ); “governments 
vary as the characters of men vary; . . . states arc made out 
of the human natures which are in them” (544) ; the state is 
what it is because its citizens are what they are. Therefore 
we need not expect to have better states until we have better 
men; till then all changes will leave every essential thing 
unchanged. “How charming people are!—always doctoring, 
increasing and complicating their disorders, fancying they will 
be cured by some nostrum which somebody advises them to 
try, never getting better, but always growing worse. . . . 
Are they not as good as a play, trying their hand at legisla¬ 
tion, and imagining that by reforms they will make an end 
to the dishonesties and rascalities of mankind—not knowing 
that in reality they are cutting away at the heads of a 
hydra.?” (426). 

Let us examine for a moment the human material with which 
political philosophy must deal. 

Human behavior, says Plato, flows from three main sources: 
desire, emotion, and knowledge. Desire, appetite, impulse, 
instinct—^these are one; emotion, spirit, ambition, courage—■ 



80 


THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 


these are one; knowledge, thought, intellect, reason—these are 
one. Desire has its seat in the loins; it is a bursting reservoir 
of energy, fundamentally sexual. Emotion has its seat in 
the heart, in the flow and force of the blood; it is the organic 
resonance of experience and desire. Knowledge has its seat 
in the head; it is the eye of desire, and can become the pilot 
of the soul. 

These powers and qualities are all in all men, but in divers 
degrees. Some men are but the embodiment of desire; rest¬ 
less and acquisitive souls, who are absorbed in material quests 
and quarrels, who burn with lust of luxuries and show, and 
who rate their gains always as naught compared with their 
ever-receding goals: these are the men who dominate and 
manipulate industry. But there are others who are temples 
of feeling and courage, who care not so much what they 
fight for, as for victory “in and for itself”; they are pug¬ 
nacious rather than acquisitive; their pride is in power rather 
than in possession, their joy is on the battle-field rather 
than in the mart: these are the men who make the armies and 
navies of the world. And last are the few whose delight is in 
meditation and understanding; who yearn not for goods, nor 
for victory, but for knowledge; who leave both market and 
battle-field to lose themselves in the quiet clarity of secluded 
thought; whose will is a light rather than a fire, whose haven 
is not power but truth: these are the men of wisdom, who stand 
aside unused by the world. 

Now just as effective individual action implies that desire, 
though warmed with emotion, is guided by knowledge; so in 
the perfect state the industrial forces would produce but they 
would not rule; the military forces would protect but they 
would not rule; the forces of knowledge and science and phi-, 
losophy would be nourished and protected, and they would 
rule. Unguided by knowledge, the people are a multitude 
without order, like desires in disarray; the people need the 
guidance of philosophers as desires need the enlightenment of 
knowledge. “Iluin comes when the trader, whose heart u 



PLATO 


lifted up by wealth, becomes ruler” (4eS4) ; or when the general 
uses his army to establish a military dictatorship. Tlie pro¬ 
ducer is at Ills best in the economic field, the warrior is at his 
best in battle; they are both at their worst in public office; and 
in their crude hands politics submerges statesmanship. I'^or 
statesmanship is a science and an art; one must have lived for 
it and been long prepared. Only a philosoplicr-king is fit 
to guide a nation. ‘‘Until philoso])liers are kings, or the 
kings and princes of this wwld have the spirit and power of 
philosopliy, and wisdom and political leadership meet in the 
same man, . . . cities will never cease from ill, nor the 
human race” (473). 

This is the key-stone of the arch of Plato’s thought. 

VII. THE PSYCHOLOGICAL, SOLUTION 

Well, then, what is to be done? 

We must begin by “sending out into the country all the 
inhabitants of the city who are more than ten years old, and 
by taking possession of the children, who will thus be pro¬ 
tected from the habits of their parents” (540). We cannot 
build Utopia with young people corru])tcd at every turn by 
the example of their elders. We must start, so far as we can, 
wdth a clean slate. It is quite jicssible that some enlightened 
ruler wdll empower us to make such a beginning with some 
part or colony of his realm. (One ruler did, as we shall see.) 
In any case we must give to every child, and from the outset, 
full equality of educational opportunity; there is no telling 
where the light of talent or genius will break out; we must 
seek it impartially everywdiere, in every rank and race. The 
first turn on our road is universal education. 

For the first ten years of life, education shall be pre¬ 
dominantly physical; every school is to have a gymnasium and 
a playground; play and sport are to be the entire curriculum; 
and in this first decade such health will be stored up as will 
make all medicine unnecessary. “To require the help ^^5 



32 


THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 


medicine because by lives of indolence and luxury men have 
filled themselves like pools with waters and Minds, . . • 
flatulence and catarrh—is not this a disgrace? . . . Our 
present sj^stem of medicine may be said to educate diseases,’* 
to draw them out into a long existence, rather than to cure 
them. But this is an absurdity of the idle rich. ‘‘When a 
carpenter is ill he asks the physician for a rough and ready 
remedy—an emetic, or a purge, or cautery, or the knife. 
And if anyone tells him that he must go through a course of 
dietetics, and swathe and s^vaddle his head, and all that sort 
of thing, he rej^lies at once that he has no time to be ill, and 
that he sees no good in a life that is spent in nursing his dis¬ 
ease to the neglect of his ordinary calling; and therefore, say¬ 
ing good-bye to this sort of physicians, he resumes his cus¬ 
tomary diet, and either gets mtU and lives and docs his busi¬ 
ness, or, if his constitution fails, he dies and has done with it” 
(405-6). We cannot afford to have a nation of malingerers 
and invalids; Utopia must begin in the body of man. 

But mere athletics and gymnastics M^ould make a man too 
one-sided. ‘‘How shall we find a gentle nature which has also 
great courage.^—for they seem to be inconsistent with each 
other” (375). We do not want a nation of prize-fighters 
and weight-lifters. Perhaps music will solve our problem: 
through music the soul learns harmony and rhythm, and even 
a disposition to justice; for “can he M^ho is harmoniously con¬ 
stituted ever be unjust? Is not this, Glaucon, why musical 
training is so pow^erful, because rhythm and harmony find 
their way into the secret places of the soul, bearing grace in 
their movements and making the soul graceful?” (401; 
Protagoras, 326). Music moulds character, and therefore 
shares in determining social and political issues. “Damon 
tells me—and I can quite believe it—that when modes of music 
change, the fundamental laws of the state change with them.” ^ 

Music is valuable not only because it brings refinement of 

iCf. Danfel O’Connell: “Let me write the songs of a nation, and I care 
not who makes its laws.” 



PLATO 


33 


feeling and character, but also because it preserves and re¬ 
stores health. There are some diseases which can be treated 
only through the mind (Charmides, 1»57) : so the Cory ban tic 
priest treated hysterical women with wild pipe music, which 
excited them to dance and dance till they fell to the ground 
exhausted, and went to sleep; when they awoke they were 
cured. The unconscious sources of human thought are 
touched and soothed by such methods; and it is in these 
substrata of behavior and feeling that genius sinks its roots. 
^‘No man when conscious attains to true or inspired intuition, 
but rather when the power of intellect is fetiered in sleep or 
by disease or dementia”; the prophet {manlike) or genius is 
akin to the madman {manike) {Pheedrus, 244). 

Plato passes on to a remarkable anticipation of ‘^psycho¬ 
analysis.” Our political psychology is perplexed, he argues, 
because we have not adequately studied the various appetites 
or instincts of man. Dreams may give us a clue to some of 
the subtle and more elusive of these dispositions. 

Certain of the unnecessary pleasures and instincts are 
deemed to be unlawful; every man appears to have them, but 
in some persons they are subjected to tlie control of law and 
reason [“sublimated”], and the better desiies prevailing 
over them, they are either wholly suppressed, or reduced in 
strength and number; while in other persons these desires 
are stronger and more abundant. I mean particularly those 
desires which are awake when the reasoning and taming and 
ruling power [“censor”] of the personality is asleep; the 
wild beast in our nature, gorged with meat and drink, starts 
up and walks about naked, and surfeits at his will; and there 
is no conceivable folly or crime, however shameless or un¬ 
natural—not excepting incest or parricide [“(Kdipus com¬ 
plex”]—of which such a nature may not be guilty. . . • 
But when a man’s pulse is healthy and temperate, and lie 
goes to sleep cool and rational, . . . having indulged his 
appetites neither too much nor too little, but just enough to 
lay them to sleep, ... he is then least likely to be the sport 
of fanciful and lawless visions. ... In all of us, even in 



84 


THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 


good men, there is such a latent wild beast nature, which 
peers out in sleep (571-2). 

Music and measure lend grace and health to the sou^ 
and to the body; but again, too much music is as dangerous 
as too much athletics. To be merely an athlete is to be nearly 
a savage; and to be merely a musician is to be ‘hnelted and 
softened beyond what is good’’ (410). The two must be com¬ 
bined ; and after sixteen the individual practice of music 
must be abandoned, though choral singing, like communal 
games, will go on throughout life. Nor is music to be merely 
music; it must be used to provide attractive forms for the 
sometimes unappetizing contents of mathematics, history and 
science; there is no reason why for the young these difficult 
studies should not be smoothed into verse and beautified with 
song. Even then these studies are not to be forced upon an 
unwilling mind; w ithin limits a libertarian spirit must prevail 

The elements of instruction . . . should be presented to 
the mind in childhood, but not with any compulsion; for a 
freeman should be a freeman too in the acquisition of knowl¬ 
edge. . . . Knowledge which is acquired under compulsion 
has no hold on the mind. Therefore do not use compulsion, 
but let early education be rather a sort of amusement; this 
will better enable yon to find out the natural bent of the child 
(536). 

With minds so freely growing, and bodies made strong by 
sport and outdoor life of every kind, our ideal state w^ould have 
a firm psychological and physiological base broad enough for 
every possibility and every development. But a moral basis 
must be provided as well; the members of the community must 
make a unity; they must learn that they are members of one 
another; that they owe to one another certain amenities and 
obligations. Now since men are by nature acquisitive, jealous, 
combative, and erotic, how shall wc persuade them to behave 
themselves? By the policeman’s omnipresent club? It is a 
brutal method, costly and irritating. There is a better way, 



PLATO 


35 

and that is by lending to the moral requirements of the com¬ 
munity the sanction of supernatural authority. We must 
have a religion. 

Plato believes that a nation cannot be strong unless it be¬ 
lieves in God. A mere cosmic force, or first cause, or clan 
vital, that was not a person, could hardly insj)ire hope, or 
devotion, or sacrifice; it could not offer comfort to the hearts 
of the distressed, nor courage to embattled souls. But a liv¬ 
ing God can do all this, and can stir or frighten the self- 
seeking individualist into some moderation of his greed, some 
control of his passion. All the more so if to belief in God 
is added belief in personal immortality: the hope of another 
life gives us courage to meet our own death, and to l)ear with 
the death of our loved ones; we arc twice armed if we fight 
with faith. Granted that none of the beliefs can be demon¬ 
strated; that God may be after all only the personified ideal 
of our love and our hope, and that the soul is like the music 
of the lyre, and dies with the instrument that gave it form: 
yet surely (so runs the argument. Pascal-like, of the Phaedo) 
it will do us no harm to believe, and it may do us and our chil¬ 
dren immeasurable good. 

For we are likely to have trouble with these children of ours 
if we undertake to explain and justify everything to their 
simple minds. We shall have an especially hard time when 
they arrive at the age of twenty, and face the first scrutiny 
and test of what they have learned in all their years of equal 
education. Then will come a ruthless weeding out; the Great 
Elimination, we might call it. That test will be no mere 
academic examination; it will be practical as well as theo¬ 
retical: “there shall also be toils and pains and conflicts pre¬ 
scribed for them” (4!l3). Every kind of abilit}^ will have a 
chance to show itself, and every sort of stupidity will be 
hunted out into the light. Those who fail will be assigned 
to the economic w^ork of the nation; they will be business 
men, and clerks, and factory workers, and farmers. The 
teat will be impartial and impersonal; whether one is to be a 



36 


THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 


farmer or a philosopher will be determined not by monopolized 
opportunity or nepotic favoritism; the selection will be more 
democratic than democracy. 

Those who pass this first test will receive ten more years 
of education and training, in body and mind and character. 
And then they will face a second test, far severer than the 
first. Those who fail will become the auxiliaries, or execu¬ 
tive aides and military officers of the state. Now it is 
just in these great eliminations that we shall need every 
resource of persuasion to get the eliminated to accept their 
fate with urbanity and peace. For what is to prevent that 
great unselected majority, in the first test, and that lesser 
but more vigorous and capable second group of Eliminees, 
from shouldering arms and smashing this Utopia of ours into 
a mouldering reminiscence.?^ What is to prevent them from 
establishing there and then a world in which again mere 
number or mere force will rule, and the sickly comedy of a 
sham democracy will reenact itself da capo ad nauseam? 
Then religion and faith will be our only salvation: we shall 
tell these young people that the divisions into which they have 
fallen are God-decreed and irrevocable—not all their tears 
shall wipe out one word of it. We shall tell them the myth 
of the metals: 

‘Citizens, you are brothers, yet God has framed you dif¬ 
ferently. Some of you have the power of command; and 
these he has made of gold, wherefore they have the greatest 
honor; others of silver, to be auxiliaries; others again, who 
are to be husbandmen and craftsmen, he has made of brass 
and iron; and the species will generally be preserved in the 
children. But as you are of the same original family, a 
golden parent will sometimes have a silver son, or a silver 
parent a golden son. And God proclaims . . . that if the 
son of a golden or a silver parent has an admixture of brass 
or iron, then nature requires a transposition of ranks; and 
the eye of the ruler must not be pitiful towards his child be¬ 
cause he has to descend in the scale to become a husbandman 



PLATO 


37 


or an artisan, just as there may be otliers sprung from the 
artisan class who are raised to honor, and become guardians 
and auxiliaries. For an oracle says that wdicn a man of 
brass or iron guards the state, it will be destroyed” (415). 

Perhaps with this ‘^royal fable” we shall secure a fairly 
general consent to the furtherance of our plan. 

But now what of the lucky remnant that ride these succes¬ 
sive waves of selection? 

They are taught philosophy. Tlicy have now reached the 
age of thirty; it would not have been wise to let them ‘Haste 
the dear delight too early; . . . for young men, when they 
first get the taste of philosophj^ in their mouths, argue for 
amusement, and arc always contradicting and refuting, . . . 
like puppy-dogs who deliglit to tear and j)ull at all who come 
near them” (539). This dear delight, philosophy, means tw^o 
things chiefly: to think dearies whicli is metaphysics; and to 
rule wuscly, w4iich is politics. First then, our young Elite 
must learn to think cleai'ly. For that purpose they shall 
study the doctrine of Ideas. 

But this famous doctrine of Ideas, embellished and ob¬ 
scured by the fancy and poetry of Plato, is a discouraging 
maze to the modern student, and must have offered another 
severe test to the survivors of many siftings. The Idea of a 
thing might be the “general idea” of the class to wdiich it 
belongs (the Idea of John, or Dick, or Harry, is Man) ; or 
it might be the law or laws according to which the thing 
operates (the Idea of John would be the reduction of all his 
behavior to “natural laws”) ; or it might be the perfect pur¬ 
pose and ideal towards which the thing and its class may 
develop (the Idea of John is the Jolm of Utopia). Very 
probably the Idea is all of these—idea, law' and ideal. Be¬ 
hind the surface phenomena and particulars which greet our 
senses, are generalizations, regularities, and directions of 
development, unperceived by sensation but conceived by 
reason and thought. These ideas, law^s and ideals are more 
permanent—and therefore more “real”—than the sense- 



38 


THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 


perceived particular things through which we conceive and 
deduce them: Man is more permanent than Tom, or Dick, or 
Harry; this circle is born with the movement of my pencil 
and dies under the attrition of my eraser, but the conception 
Circle goes on forever. This tree stands, and that tree falls; 
but the laws which determine what bodies shall fall, and when, 
and how, were without beginning, are now, and ever shall be, 
without end. There is, as the gentle Spinoza would say, a 
world of things perceived by sense, and a world of laws in¬ 
ferred by thought; we do not see the law of inverse squares 
but it is there, and everywhere; it was before anything began, 
and will survive when all the world of things is a finished tale. 
Here is a bridge: the sense perceives concrete and iron to a 
hundred million tons; but the mathematician sees, with the 
mind’s eye, the daring and delicate adjustment of all this mass 
of material to the laws of mechanics and mathematics and en¬ 
gineering, those laws according to which all good bridges that 
are made must be made; if the mathematician be also a poet, 
he will see these laws upholding the bridge; if the laws were 
violated the bridge would collapse into the stream beneath; 
the laws are the God that holds up the bridge in the hollow 
of his hand. Aristotle hints something of this when he says 
that by Ideas Plato meant what Pythagoras meant by ‘hium- 
ber” when he taught that this is a world of numbers (meaning 
presumably that the world is ruled by mathematical con¬ 
stancies and regularities). Plutarch tells us tliat according 
to Plato ^^God always geometrizes”; or, as Spinoza puts the 
same thought, God and the universal laws of structure and 
operation are one and the same reality. To Plato, as to 
Bertrand Russell, mathematics is therefore the indispensable 
prelude to philosophy, and its higliest form; over the doors 
of his Academy Plato placed, Dantesquely, these words, “Let 
no man ignorant of geometry enter here*” ^ 

iTbe details of the arpjument for the interpretation here given of the doc¬ 
trine of Ideas may be followed in D. G. Ritchie’s Plato, Edinburgh, 1902, 
pecially pp. 49 and 85. 



PLATO 


39 


Without these Ideas—these generalizations, regularities 
and ideals—the world would be to us as it must seem to the 
first-opened eyes of the child, a mass of unclassified and un¬ 
meaning particulars of sensation; for meaning can be given 
to things only by classifying and generalizing them, by find¬ 
ing the laws of tlieir beings, and the purposes and goals ot 
their activity. Or the world witliout Ideas would be a heap 
of book-titles fallen haidiazard out of the catalogue, as com¬ 
pared to the same titles arranged in order according to their 
classes, their sequences and their purposes; it would be the 
shadows in a cave as compared with the sunlit realities without, 
which cast those fantastic and deceptive shadows within (514). 
Therefore the essence of a higher education is the search for 
Ideas: for generalizations, laws of sequence, and ideals of 
development; behind things we must discover their relation and 
meaning, their mode and law of operation, the function and 
ideal they serve or adumbraie; we must classify and co¬ 
ordinate our sense experience in terms of law and purpose; 
only for lack of this does the mind of the imbecile differ from 
the mind of Caesar. 

Well, after five years of training in this recondite doctrine 
of Ideas, this art of perceiving significant forms and 
causal sequences and ideal potentialities amid the welter and 
hazard of sensation; after five years of training in the appli¬ 
cation of this princi])le to the behavior of men and the con¬ 
duct of states; after this long preparation from childhood 
through youth and into the maturity of thirty-five; surely 
now these perfect products are ready to assume the roy^f 
purple and the highest functions of public life.^—surely they 
are at last the philosopher-kings who are to rule and to free 
the human race.? 

Alas! not yet. Their education is still unfinished. For 
after all it has been, in the main, a theoretical education: 
something else is needed. Let these Ph.D.’s pass down now 
from the heights of philosophy into the ‘‘‘cave” of the world 

men and things; generalizations and abstractions are worth- 



40 


THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 


less except they be tested by this concrete world; let our 
students enter that world with no favor shown them; they 
shall compete with men of business, with hard-headed grasping 
individualists, with men of brawn and men of cunning; in this 
mart of strife they shall learn from the book of life itself; 
they shall hurt their fingers and scratch their philosophic 
shins on the crude realities of the world; they shall earn their 
bread and butter by the sweat of their high brows. And 
this last and sharpest test shall go on ruthlessly for fifteen long 
years. Some of our perfect products will break under the 
pressure, and be submerged by this last great wave of elimina¬ 
tion. Those that survive, scarred and fifty, sobered and self- 
reliant, shorn of scholastic vanity by the merciless friction of 
life, and armed now with all the wisdom that tradition and 
experience, culture and conflict, can cooperate to give—these 
men at last shall automatically become the rulers of the state 

VIII. THE POEITICAE SOLUTION 

Automatically—without any hypocrisy of voting. De? 
mocracy means perfect equality of opportunity, especially in 
education; not the rotation of every Tom, Dick and Harry 
in public office. Every man shall have an equal chance to 
make himself fit for the complex tasks of administration; but 
only those who have proved their mettle (or, in our myth, 
their metal), and have emerged from all tests with the 
insignia of skill, shall be eligible to rule. Public officials shall 
be chosen not by votes, nor by secret cliques pulling the unseen 
wires of democratic pretense, but by their own ability as 
demonstrated in the fundamental democracy of an equal race. 
Nor shall any man hold office without specific training, nor 
hold high office till he has first filled a lower office well 
(GorgiaSy 514 - 5 ). 

Is this aristocracy Well, we need not be afraid of the 
word, if the reality is good which it betokens: words are wise 
men’s counters, without value of their own; they are the money 



PLATO 


41 


pnly of fools and politicians. We want to be ruled by the 
best, which is what aristocracy means; have we not, Carlyle- 
like, yearned and prayed to be ruled by the best? But we 
have come to think of aristocracies as hereditary: let it be 
carefully noted that this Platonic aristocracy is not of that 
kind; one would rather call it a democratic aristocracy. For 
the people, instead of blindly electing the lesser of two evils 
presented to them as candidates by nominating cliques, will 
here be themselves, every one of them, the candidates; and will 
receive an equal chance of cdacational election to public 
office. There is no caste here; no inlieritance of position or 
privilege; no stoppage of talent impecuniously born; the son 
of a ruler begins on the same level, and receives the same 
treatment and opportunity, as the son of a boot-black; if the 
ruler’s son is a dolt he falls at the first shearing; if the boot¬ 
black’s son is a man of ability the way is clear for him to 
become a guardian of the state (423). Career will be open 
to talent wherever it is born. This is a democracy of the 
schools—a hundredfold more honest and more effective than a 
democracy of the polls. 

And so, ‘‘setting aside every other business, the guardians 
will dedicate themselves wholly to the maintenance of free¬ 
dom in the state, making this their craft and engaging in no 
work which docs not bear upon this end” (395). They shall 
be legislature and executive and court in one; even the laws 
shall not bind them to a dogma in the face of altered cir¬ 
cumstance; the rule of the guardians shall be a flexible in¬ 
telligence unbound by precedent. 

But how can men of fifty have a flexible intelligence? 
Will they not be mentally plaster-casted by routine? 
Adcimantus (echoing, no doubt, some hot brotherly debate in 
Plato’s home) objects that philosophers are dolts or rogues, 
who would rule either foolishly, or selfishly, or both. ‘"The 
votaries of philosophy who carry on the study not only in 
youth with a view to education, but as the pursuit of their 
maturer years—these men for the most part grow into very 



42 THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 

strange beings, not to say utter scoundrels; and the result 
with those who may be considered the best of them is, that 
they are made useless to the world by the very study which 
you extol” (487). This is a fair enough description of some 
be-spectacled modern philosophers; but Plato answers that he 
has guarded against this difficulty by giving his philosophers 
the training of life as well as the erudition of the schools; 
that they will in consequence be men of action rather than 
merely men of thought—men seasoned to high purposes and 
noble temper by long experience and trial. By philosophy 
Plato means an active culture, wisdom that mixes with the 
concrete busy-ness of life; he does not mean a closeted and 
impractical metaphysician; Plato ^‘is the man who least 
resembles Kant, which is (with all respect) a considerabk 
merit.” ^ 

So much for incompetence; as for rascality we may provide 
against that by establishing among the guardians a system 
of communism: 

In the first place none of them should have any property 
beyond what is absolutely necessary; neither should they 
have a private house, with bars and bolts, closed against any 
one who has a mind to enter; their provisions should be only 
such as are required by trained warriors, who are men of 
temperance and courage; their agreement is to receive from 
the citizens a fixed rate of pay, enough to meet the expenses 
of the year, and no more; and they will have common meals 
and live together, like soldiers in a camp. Gold and silver 
we will tell them that they have from God; the diviner metal 
is within them, and they have therefore no need of that 
earthly dross which passes under the name of gold, and ought 
not to pollute the divine by earthly admixture, for that com¬ 
moner metal has been the source of many unholy deeds; but 
their own is undefiled. And tliey alone of all the citizens 
may not touch or handle silver or gold, or be under the same 
roof with them, or wear them, or drink from them. And this 
will be their salvation, and the salvation of the State. But 
iFaguet, p. 10. 



PLATO 


43 


should they ever acquire homes or lands or moneys of their 
own, they will become liousekeepers and liusbandinen instead 
of guardians; enemies and tyrants instead of allies of the 
other citizens; hating and being hated, plotting and being 
plotted against, tliey will pass through life in much greate r 
terror of internal than of external enemies; and the hour of 
ruin, both to themselves and to the rest of the State, will be at 
hand (416-17). 

This arrangement will make it unprofitable, as well as dan¬ 
gerous, for the guardians to rule as a clique seeking the good 
of their class rather than that of the community as a whole. 
For they will be protected from want; the ncces.ntics and 
modest luxuries of a noble life wull be theirs in regular i)rovi- 
sion, without the searing and wrinkling care of economic 
worry. But by the same token they will be precluded from 
cupidity and sordid ambitions; they wull ahvays have just so 
much of the w^orkPs goods, and no more; they wull be like 
physicians establishing, and themselves accepting, a dietary 
for a nation. They will eat together, like consecrated men; 
they wull sleep together in single barracks, like soldiers sw’orn 
to simplicity. ‘‘Friends should have all things in common,’'* 
as Pythagoras used to say {Lares 807). So the authority 
of the guardians will be sterilized, and their power made 
poisonless; their sole reward will be honor and the sense of 
service to the group. And they will be such men as from the 
beginning have deliberately consented to so materially li.pited 
a career; and such men as at the end of their stern training 
will have learned to value the liigh repute of the statesman 
above the crass emoluments of the office-seeking politicians or 
the “economic man.” At their coming the battles of party 
politics will be no more. 

But w4iat will their wives say to all this.'^ Will they be 
content to forego the luxuries of life and the conspicuous 
consumption of goods The guardians w’ill have no wives. 
Their communism is to be of w'omen as well as of goods. 
They are to be freed not only from the egoism of self, but 



44 


THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 


from the egoism of family; they are not to be narrowed 
the anxious acquisitiveness of the prodded husband; they are 
to be devoted not to a woman but to the community. Even 
their children shall not be specifically or distinguisliably 
theirs; all children of guardians shall be taken from their 
mothers at birth and brought up in common; their particular 
parentage will be lost in the scuffle (460). All the guardian- 
mothers will care for all the guardian-children; the brother¬ 
hood of man, within these limits, will graduate from phrase 
to fact; every boy will be a brother to every other boy, every 
girl a sister, every man a father, and every woman a mother. 

But whence will these women come? Some, no doubt, the 
guardians will woo out of the industrial or military classes; 
others will have become, by their own right, members of the 
guardian class. For there is to be no sex barrier of any kind 
in this community; least of all in education—the girl shall 
have the same intellectual opportunities as the boy, the same 
chance to rise to the highest positions in the state. When 
Glaucon objects (453 f) that this admission of woman to any 
office, provided she has passed the tesS^. violates the principle 
of the division of labor, he receives the sharp reply that divi¬ 
sion of labor must be by aptitude and ability, not by sex; if a 
woman shows herself capable of political administration, let her 
rule; if a man shows himself to be capable only of washing 
dishes, let him fulfil the function to which Providence has as¬ 
signed him. 

Community of wives does not mean indiscriminate mating; 
rather there is to be strict eugenic supervision of all repro¬ 
ductive relations. The argument from the breeding oi 
animals here starts its wandering career: if we get such good 
results in breeding cattle selectively for qualities desired, 
and from breeding only from the best in each generation, 
why should we not apply similar principles to the matings 
of mankind? (459). For it is not enough to educate the 
child properly; he must be properly born, of select and healthy 
ancestry; ‘^education should begin before birth” {Laws^ 789). 



PLATO 


45 


Therefore no man or woman shall procreate unless in perfect 
health; a health certificate is to be required of every bride 
and groom (Laws^ 772). Men may reproduce only wlicn 
they are above thirty and under forty-five; women only when 
they are above twenty and under forty. Men unmarried by 
thirty-five are to be taxed into felicity (Laws, 771). Off¬ 
spring born of unlicensed matings, or deformed, arc to be 
exposed and left to die. Before and after the ages specified 
for procreation, mating is to be free, on condition that the 
foetus be aborted. “We grant this y)crinission with strict or¬ 
ders to the parties to do all in their power to prevent any 
embryo from seeing the light; and if any should force its way 
to birth, they must understand that the offspring of such a 
union cannot be maintained, and thc}’^ must make their ar¬ 
rangements accordingly” (461). The marriage of relatives 
is prohibited, as inducing degeneration (310). ‘‘The best of 
either sex should be united with the best as often as possible, 
and the inferior with the inferior; and they arc to rear the off¬ 
spring of the one sort but not that of the other; for this is 
the only way of keeping the flock in prime condition. . . . Our 
braver and better youth, beside their other honors and rewards, 
are to be permitted a greater variety of mates; for such fathers 
ought to have as many sons as possible” (459-60). 

But our eugenic society must be protected not onl\" from 
disease and deterioration within, but from enemies without. 
It must be ready, if need be, to wage successful war. Uar 
model community would of course be pacific, for it would 
restrict population wuthin the means of subsistence; but 
neighboring states not so managed might well look upon the 
orderly prosperity of our Utopia as an invitation to raid and 
rapine. Hence, w4iile deploring the necessity, we shall have, 
in our intermediate class, a sufficient number of wdl-trained 
soldiers, living a hard and simple life like the guardians, on 
H stated modicum of goods supplied b}^ their “maintainers 
and fore-fathers,” the people. At the same time every pre« 
caution must be taken to avoid the occasions of w^ar. The 



46 


THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 


primary occasion is overpopulation (373) ; the second is 
foreign trade, with the inevitable disputes that interrupt it. 
Indeed, competitive trade is really a form of war; ‘‘peace is 
only a name” {Laics^ 622). It will be well then to situate 
our ideal state considerably inland, so that it shall be shut 
out from any high development of foreign commerce. “The 
sea fills a country with merchandise and money-making and 
bargaining; it breeds in men’s minds habits of financial greed 
and faithlessness, alike in its internal and in its foreign rela¬ 
tions” {LaxcSy 704-7). Foreign trade requires a large navy to 
protect it; and navalism is as bad as militarism. “In every 
case the guilt of war is confined to a few persons, and the many 
are friends” (471). Tlie most frequent wars are precisel}^ 
the vilest—civil wars, wars of Greek against Greek; let the 
Greeks form a pan-Hellenic league of nations, uniting lest 
“the wliole Greek race some day fall under the yoke of bar¬ 
barian peoples” (469). 

So our political structure will be topped with a small class 
of guardians; it will be protected by a large class of soldiers 
and “auxiliaries”; and it will rest on tlie broad base of a 
commercial, industrial, and agricultural population. This 
last or economic class will retain j^rivate property, private 
mates, and private families. But trade and industry will be 
regulated by the guardians to prevent excessive individual 
wealth or poverty; any one acquiring more than four times 
the average possession of the citizens must relinquish the 
excess to the state {Laws, 714 f). Perliaps interest will be 
forbidden, and profits limited {Lazvs, 920). The communism 
of the guardians is Impracticable for the economic class; 
the distinguishing characteristics of this class are powerful 
instincts of acquisition and competition; some noble souls 
among them will be free from this fever of combative pos¬ 
session, but the majority of men are consumed with it; they 
hunger and thirst not after righteousness, nor after honor, but 
after possessions endlessly multiplied. Now men engrossed 
in the pursuit of money are unfit to rule a state; and our 



PLATO 


47 


entire plan rests on tlie hope tliat if the guardians rule well 
and live simply, the economic man will be willing to let them 
monopolize administration if they permit him to monopolize 
luxury. In short, the perfect society would be that in which 
each class and each unit would be doing the work to wliich 
its nature and aptitude best adayited it; in which no class 
or individual would interfere with others, but all would co¬ 
operate in difference to produce an efficient and harmonious 
whole (433--4). That would be a just state. 


IX. THE ETinCAE SOLT^TTOM 

And now our political digression is ended, and we are ready 
at last to answer the (question with which we began—What 
is justice.^ There are only three tilings worth while in this 
world—justice, beauty and truth; and perhaps none of them 
can be defined. Four hundred years after Plato a Roman 
procurator of Judea asked, helplessly, “What is truth?”—and 
philosophers have not yet answered, nor told us what is beauty. 
But for justice Plato ventures a definition. “Justice,” he 
says, “is the having and doing what is one’s own” (433). 

This has a disappointing sound; after so much delay we 
expected an infallible revelation. What does the definition 
mean? Simply that each man shall receive the equivalent 
of what he produces, and shall perform the function for which 
he is best fit. A just man is a man in just the right }»lace, 
doing his best, and giving the full equivalent of what he re¬ 
ceives. A society of just men w'ould be therefore a highly 
harmonious and efficient group; for every element would be 
in its place, fulfilling its appropriate function like the pieces 
in a perfect orchestra. Justice in a society would be like 
that harmony of relationships whereby the planets are held 
together in tlicir orderly (or, as Pythagoras would have said, 
their musical) movement. So organized, a society is fit for 
survival; and justice receives a kind of Darwinian sanction. 
.Where men are out of their natural places, where the business 



48 


THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 


man subordinates the statesman, or the soldier usurps the posi¬ 
tion of tlie king—there the coordination of parts is destroyed, 
the joints decay, the society disintegrates and dissolves. 
Justice is effective coordination. 

And in tlie individual too, justice is effective coordination, 
the harmonious functioning of the elements in a man, each 
in its fit place and each making its cooperative contribution 
to behavior. Every individual is a cosmos or a chaos of 
desires, emotions and ideas; let these fall into harmony, and 
the individual survives and succeeds; let them lose their proper 
place and function, let emotion try to become the light of 
action as well as its heat (as in the fanatic), or let thought 
try to become the heat of action as well as its light (as in 
the intellectual)—and disintegration of personality begins, 
failure advances like the inevitable night. Justice is a taxis 
kai kosmos —an order and beauty—of the parts of the soul; 
it is to the soul as health is to the body. All evil is dis¬ 
harmony: between man and nature, or man and men, or man 
and himself. 

So Plato replies to Thrasymachus and Callicles, and to all 
Nietzscheans forever: Justice is not mere strength, but 
harmonious strength—desires and men falling into that order 
which constitutes intelligence and organization; justice is not 
the right of the stronger, but the effective harmony of the 
whole. It is true that the individual who gets out of the 
place to which his nature and talents adapt him may for a 
time seize some profit and advantage; but an inescapable 
Nemesis pursues him—as Anaxagoras spoke of the Furies 
pursuing any planet that should wander out of its orbit; the 
terrible baton of the Nature of Things drives the refractory 
instrument back to its place and its pitch and its natural 
note. The Corsican lieutenant may try to rule Europe with 
a ceremonious despotism fitted better to an ancient monarchy 
than to a dynasty born overnight; but he ends on a prison-rock 
in the sea, ruefully recognizing that he is ‘Hhe slave of the Na¬ 
ture of Things.” Injustice will out. 



PLATO 


49 


There is nothing bizarrely new in tliis conception; and in¬ 
deed we shall do well to suspect, in philosophy, any doctrine 
which plumes itself on novelty. Truth changes her garments 
frequently (like every seemly lady), but under the new habit 
she remains always the same. In morals we need not ex})ect 
startling innovations: despite the interesting adventures of 
Sophists and Nictzscheans, all moral conceptions revolve about 
the good of the whole. Morality begins with association and 
interdependence and organization; life in society requires the 
concession of some part of the individual’s sovereignty to the 
common order; and ultimately the norm of conduct becomes 
the welfare of the group. Nature will have it so, and her judg¬ 
ment is always final; a group survives, in competition or con¬ 
flict with another group, according to its unity and power, 
according to the ability of its members to cooperate for com¬ 
mon ends. And what better rooj)eration could there be than 
that each should be doing that which he can do best.^^ This 
is the goal of organization which every society must seek, if 
it would have life. Morality, said Jesus, is kindness to the 
weak; morality, said Nietzsche, is the bravery of the strong; 
morality, says Plato, is the effective harmony of the whole. 
Probably all three doctrines must be combined to find a per¬ 
fect ethic; but can we doubt which of the elements is funda¬ 
mental.? 


X. CRITICISM 

And now what shall we say of this whole Utopia? Is it 
feasible? And if not, has it any practicable features which 
we could turn to contemporary use? Has it ever in any place 
or measure been realized? 

At least the last question must be answered in Plato’s favor. 
For a thousand years Europe was ruled by an order of 
guardians considerably like that which was visioned by our 
philosopher. During the Middle Ages it was customary to 
classify the population of Christendom into labor a tores (work¬ 
ers), hellatores (soldiers), and oratorcf^ (clergy). The last 



-50 


THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 


^roup, though small in number, monopolized the instruments 
and opportunities of culture, and ruled with almost unlimited 
sway half of the most powerful continent on the globe. The 
clergy, like Plato’s guardians, were placed in authority not 
by the suffrages of the people, but by their talent as shown in 
ecclesiastical studies and administration, by their disposition 
to a life of meditation and simplicity, and (perhaps it should 
be added) by the influence of their relatives with the powers 
of state and church. In the latter half of the period in which 
they ruled, the clergy were as free from family cares as even 
Plato could desire; and in some cases, it would seem, they en¬ 
joyed no little of the reproductive freedom accorded to the 
guardians. Celibacy was part of the psychological structure 
of the power of the clergy; for on the one hand they were 
unimpeded by the narrowing egoism of the family, and on 
the other their apparent superiority to the call of the flesh 
added to the awe in which lay sinners held them, and to the 
readiness of these sinners to bare their lives in the confessional, 
yj Much of the politics of Catholicism was derived from Plato’s 
“royal lies,” or influenced by them: tlie ideas of heaven, pur¬ 
gatory, and liell, in their medieval form, are traceable to the 
last book of the Republic; the cosmology of scholasticism 
comes largely from the Timeeus; the doctrine of realism (the 
objective reality of general ideas) was an interpretation of 
the doctrine of Ideas; even the educational “quadrivium” 
(arithmetic, geometry, astronomy and music) was modeled on 
the curriculum outlined in Plato. With this body of doctrine 
the people of Europe were ruled with hardly any resort to 
force; and they accepted this rule so readily that for a thou¬ 
sand years they contributed plentiful material support to their 
rulers, and asked no voice in the government. Nor was this 
acquiescence confined to the general population; merchants 
and soldiers, feudal chieftains and civil jjowers all bent the 
knee to Rome. It was an aristocracy of no mean political 
sagacity; it built probably the most marvelous and powerful 
organization which the world has ever known. 



PLATO 


61 


^ The Jesuits who for a time ruled Paraguay were semi- 
Platonic guardians, a clerical oligarchy empowered by the 
possession of knowledge and skill in the midst of a barbarian 
population. And for a time the Communist Party which ruled 
Russia after the revolution of November, 1917, took a form 
strangely reminiscent of the Republic. They were a small 
minority, held together almost by religious conviction, wield¬ 
ing the weapons of orthodoxy and excommunication, as sternly 
devoted to their cause as any saint to his, and living a frugal 
existence while ruling half the soil of Kurope. 

Such examples indicate that will'in limits and with modifica¬ 
tions, Plato’s plan is practicable; anh indeed he himself had 
derived it largely from actual practice as seen on his travels. 
He had been impressed by the Egyptian theocracy: here was 
a great and ancient civilization ruled by a small priestly class; 
and compared with tlie bickering and tyranny and incompe¬ 
tence of the Athenian Ecclesia Plato felt that the Egyptian 
government represented a much higher form of state (LawSy 
819). In Italy he had stayed for a time with a Pythagorean 
community, vegetarian and communist, which had for genera¬ 
tions controlled the Greek colony in which it lived. In Sparta, 
lip had seen a small ruling class living a hard and simple life in 
common in the midst of a subject population; eating together, 
restricting mating for eugenic ends, and giving to the brave 
the privilege of many wives. He liad no doubt heard Euripi¬ 
des advocate a community of wives, the liberation of slaves, ind 
the pacification of the Greek world by an Hellenic league 
{Mcdcay 230; Fragm.y 655) ; no doubt, too, he knew some of 
the C 3 uiics who had developed a strong communist movement 
among what one would now call the Socratic Left. In short, 
Plato must have felt that in propounding his plan he was not 
making an impossible advance on realities which his eyes had 
seen. 

Yet critics from Aristotle’s day to ours have found in the 
Republic manj^ an opening for objection and doubt. “These 
things and many others,” says the Slagyrite, with cynical 



52 


THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 


brevity, ‘‘have been invented several times over in the course of 
ages.” It is very pretty to plan a society in which all men will 
be brothers; but to extend such a term to all our male contem¬ 
poraries is to water out of it all warmth and significance. 
So with common property: it would mean a dilution of respon¬ 
sibility; when everything belongs to everybody nobody will 
take care of anything. And finally, argues the great con¬ 
servative, communism would fling people into an intolerable 
continuity of contact; it would leave no room for privacy or in¬ 
dividuality ; and it would presume such virtues of patience and 
cooperation as only a saintly minority possess. “We must 
neither assume a standard of virtue which is above ordinary 
persons, nor an education w^hich is exceptionally favored by 
nature and circumstance; but we must have regard to the life 
which the majority can share, and to the forms of government 
to which states in general can attain.” 

So far Plato’s greatest (and most jealous) pupil; and most 
of the criticisms of later date strike the same chord. Plato 
underrated, we are told, the force of custom accumulated in 
file institution of monogamy, and in the moral code attached 
to that institution; he underestimated the possessive jealousy 
of males in supposing that a man would be content to have 
merely an aliquot portion of a w ife; he minimized the maternal 
instinct in supposing that mothers would agree to have their 
children taken from them and brought up in a heartless 
anonymity. And above all he forgot that in abolishing the 
family he was destroying the great nurse of morals and the 
chief source of those cooperative and communistic habits which 
would have to be the psychological basis of his state; with un¬ 
rivaled eloquence he sawed off the branch on which he sat. 

To all these criticisms one can reply very simply, that they 
destroy a straw man. Plato explicitly exempts the majority 
from his communistic plan; he recognizes clearly enough that 
only a few are capable of the material self-denial which he 
proposes for his ruling class; only the guardians will call 
every guardian brother or sister; only the guardians will be 



PLATO 


53 


without gold or goods. The vast majority will retain all 
respectable institutions—property, money, luxury, competi¬ 
tion, and whatever privacy they may desire. They will 
have marriage as monogamic as the\ can bear, and all the 
morals derived from it and from the family; the fathers shall 
keep their wives and the mothers shall keep their children ad 
libitum and nauseam. As to the guardians, their need is not 
so much a communistic disposition as a sense of honor, and love 
of it; pride and not kindness is to liold them up. And as for 
the maternal instinct, it is not strong before the birth, or even 
the growth, of the child; the average motlier accepts the new¬ 
born babe rather with resignation than with joy; love for it 
is a development, not a sudden miracle, and grows as the child 
grows, as it takes form under the j)ainstaking care of the 
mother; not until it has become the embodiment of maternal 
artistry does it irrevocably catch the heart. 

Other objections are economic rather than psychological. 
Plato’s republic, it is argued, denounces the division of every 
city into two cities, and then offers us a city divided into three. 
The answer is that the division in the first case is by economic 
conflict; in Plato’s state the guardian and auxiliary classes 
are specifically excluded from participation in this competi¬ 
tion for gold and goods. But then the guardians would 
have power without responsibility; and would not this lead 
to tyranny.^ Not at all; they have political power and di¬ 
rection, but no economic power or wealth; the economic cl .ss, 
if dissatisfied with the guardians’ mode of rule, could hold 
up the food supply, as Parliaments control executives by hold¬ 
ing up the budget. Well, then, if the guardians have political 
but not economic power, how can they maintain their rule.? 
Have not Harrington and Marx and many others shown that 
political power is a reflex of economic power, and becomes pre¬ 
carious as soon as economic power passes to a politically 
subject group—as to the middle classes in the eighteenth cen¬ 
tury ? 

This is a very fundamental objection, and perhaps a fatal 



64 THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 

one. The answer might be made that the power of the Roman 
Catholic Church, which brought even kings to kneel at Ca- 
nossa, was based, in its earlier centuries of rule, rather on the 
inculcation of dogmas than on the strategy of wealth. But 
it may be that the long dominion of tlie Church was due to the 
agricultural condition of Europe: an agricultural population 
is inclined to supernatural belief by its helpless dependence 
on the caprice of the elements, and by that inability to control 
nature which always leads to fear and thence to worship; when 
industry and commerce developed, a new type of mind and 
/nan arose, more realistic and terrestrial, and the power of the 
Church began to crumble as soon as it came into conflict with 
this new economic fact. Political power must repeatedly re¬ 
adjust itself to the changing balance of economic forces. The 
economic dependence of Plato’s guardians on the economic 
class would very soon reduce them to the controlled political 
executives of that class; even the manipulation of military 
power would not long forestall this inevitable issue—any more 
than the military forces of revolutionary Russia could pre¬ 
vent the development of a proprietary individualism among 
the peasants who controlled the growth of food, and there¬ 
fore the fate of the nation. Only this would remain to Plato: 
that even though political policies must be determined by the 
economically dominant group, it is better that those policies 
should be administered by officials specifically prepared for the 
purpose, than by men who stumble out of commerce or manu¬ 
facturing into political office without any training in the arts 
of statesmanship. 

What Plato lacks above all, perhaps, is the Hcracleitean 
sense of flux and change; he is too anxious to have the moving 
picture of this world become a fixed and still tableau. He 
loves order exclusively, like any timid philosopher; he has 
been frightened by the democratic turbulence of Athens into 
an extreme neglect of individual values; he arranges men in 
classes like an entomologist classifying flies; and he is not 
averse to using priestly humbug to secure liis ends. His state 



PLATO 


65 


is static; it might easily become an old-fogey society, ruled hy 
inflexible octogenarians liostile to invention and jealous of 
change. It is mere science without art; it exalts order, so dear 
to the scientific mind, and quite neglects that lilicrty wliich is 
the soul of art; it worships the name of beauty, but exihs the 
artists who alone can mahe beauty or point it out. It is a 
Sparta or a Prussia, not an ideal state. 

And now tliat these unpleasant necessities are candidly writ¬ 
ten down, it remains to do willing homage to the power and 
profundity of Plato’s conception. Essentially he is right— 
is he not.?—what this Avorld needs is to be ruled bv its wisest 
men. It is our business to adapt his thought to our own times 
and limitations. Today we must take democracy for granted: 
we cannot limit the suffrage as Plato proposed; but we can 
put restrictions on the holding of office, and in this way secure 
that mixture of democracy and aiistocracy which Plato seems 
to have in mind. We may accept without quarrel his con¬ 
tention that statesmen should be as specifically and thoroughly 
trained as physicians; we might establish departments of po¬ 
litical science and administration in our universities; and when 
these departments have begun to function adequately we might 
make men ineligible for nomination to j)olitical office unless 
they were graduates of such political schools. We might even 
make every man eligible for an office who had been trained for 
it, and thereby eliminate entirely that complex system nom¬ 
inations in which the corruption of our democracy has its 
scat; let the electorate choose any man who, properly trained 
and qualified, announces himself as a candidate. In this way 
democratic choice would be immeasurably wider than now, 
when Tweedledum and Tweedledee stage their quadrennial 
show and sham. Only one amendment would be required to 
make quite democratic this plan ^or the restriction of office to 
graduates in administrative technique; and that would be such 
equality of educational opj)ortiinity as would open to all men 
and women, irrespective of the means of tlieir parents, the 
road to university training and political advancement. It 



66 


THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 


would be very simple to have municipalities and counties and 
states offer scholarships to all graduates of grammar school, 
high school and college who had shown a certain standard of 
ability, and whose parents were financially unable to see them 
through the next stage of the educational process. That 
would be a democracy worthy of the name. 

Finally, it is only fair to add that Plato understands that 
his Utopia does not quite fall within the practicable realm. 
He admits that he has described an ideal difficult of attain¬ 
ment ; he answers that there is nevertheless a value in painting 
these pictures of our desire; man’s significance is that he can 
image a better world, and will some part of it at least into 
reality; man is an animal that makes Utopias. ^‘We look be¬ 
fore and after and pine for what is not.” Nor is it all without 
result: many a dream has grown limbs and walked, or gro>^Tj 
wings and flown, like the dream of Icarus that men might 
fly- After all, even if we have but drawn a picture, it may 
ierve as goal and model of our movement and behavior; when 
sufficient of us see the picture and follow its gleam, Utopia 
will find its way upon the map. Meanwhile ‘dn heaven there 
is laid up a pattern of such a city, and he who desires may 
behold it, and beholding; govern himself accordingly. But 
whether there really is or ever will be such a city on earth, 
... he will act according to the laws of that city, and no 
other” (592). The good man will apply even in the imper¬ 
fect state, the perfect law. 

Nevertheless, with all these concessions to doubt, the Master 
W’as bold enough to risk himself when a chance offered to re¬ 
alize his plan. In the year 387 n. c. Plato received an invita¬ 
tion from Dionysius, ruler of the then flourishing and powerful 
Syracuse, capital of Sicily, to come and turn his kingdom into 
Utopia; and the philosopher, thinking like Turgot that it 
was easier to educate one man—even though a king—than a 
whole people, consented. But when Dionysius found that the 
plan required either that he should become a philosopher oy 



PLATO 


67 


cease to be a king, he balked; and the upshot was a bitter 
quarrel. Story has it that Plato was sold into slavery, to be 
rescued by his friend and pupil Anniceris; who, when Plato’s 
Athenian followers wished to reimburse him for the ransom he 
had paid, refused, saying that they should not be the only 
ones privileged to help philosophy. This (and, if wc may be¬ 
lieve Diogenes Laertius, another similar) experience may ac¬ 
count* for the disillusioned conservatism of Plato’s last work, 
the Laws. 

And yet the closing years of his long life must have been 
fairly happy. Ilis jjupils had gone out in every direction, 
and their success hud made him lumoivd everywhere. He was 
at peace in his Academe, walking from group to group of his 
students and giving them problems and tasks on which they 
were to make research and, when he came to them again, give 
report and answer. La Rochefoucauld said that “few kno\( 
how to grow old.” Plato knew; to learn like Solon and to 
teach like Socrates; to guide the eager young, and find the 
intellectual love of comrades. For his students loved him as 
he loved them; he was their friend as well as their philosopher 
and guide. 

One of his pupils, facing that great abyss called marriage, 
invited the Master to his wedding feast. Plato came, rich 
with his eighty years, and joined the meri’y-makers gladly. 
But as the hours laughed tlu'mselves away, the old philosopher 
retired into a quiet corner of the house, and sat down on a chair 
to win a little sleep. In the morning, when the feast was over, 
the tired revellers came to wake him. The}^ found that during 
the night, quietly and without ado, he had passed from a little 
sleep to an endless one. All Athens followed him to the grave. 



CHAPTER n 


ARISTOTLE AND GREEK SCIENCE 

I. THE HISTORICAL BACKGROUND 

A ristotle was bom at Staglra, a Macedonian city 
some two hundred miles to the north of Athens, in 
the year 384? b. c. His father was friend and physi¬ 
cian to Amyntas, King of Macedon and grandfather of Alex¬ 
ander. Aristotle himself seems to have become a member of 
the great medical fraternitj’^ of Asclepiads. He was brought 
up in the odor of medicine as many later philosophers were 
brought up in tlie odor of sanctity; he had every opportunity 
and encouragement to develop a scientific bent of mind; he 
was prepared from the beginning to become the founder of 
science. 

We have a choice of stories for his youth. One narrative 
represents him as squandering his patrimony in riotous liv¬ 
ing, joining the army to avoid starvation, returning to Sta- 
gira to practice medicine, and going to Athens at the age of 
thirty to study philosophy under Plato. A more dignified 
story takes him to Athens at the age of eighteen, and puts 
him at once under the tutelage of the great Master; but even 
in this likelier account there is sufficient echo of a reckless and 
irregular youth, living rapidly.^ The scandalized reader may 
console himself by observing that in either story our philos¬ 
opher anchors at last in the quiet groves of the Academy. 

Under Plato he studied eight—or twenty—years; and in¬ 
deed the pervasive Platonism of Aristotle’s speculations—even 
of those most anti-Platonic—suggests the longer period. One 

iGrote, Aristotle, London, 1872, p. 4; Zeller, Aristotle and the Earlier Peri’- 
patetica, London, 1897, vol. i, pp. 6 f. 

58 



ARISTOTLE 


69 


would nice to imagine these as very happy years: a brilliant 
pupil guided by an incomparable teacher, walking like Greek 
lovers in the gardens of philosophy. But they were both 
geniuses; and it is notorious that geniuses accord with one an¬ 
other as harmoniously as dynamite with fire. Almost hall a 
century separated them; it was difficult for understanding to 
bridge the gap of years and cancel the incompatibility of souls. 
Plato recognized the greatness of this strange new pupil from 
the supposedly barbarian north, and spoke of him once as the 
No2is of the Academy,—as if to say, Intelligence personified. 
Aristotle had spent money la\isldy in the collection of books 
(that is, in those printless days, manu.')Cripts) ; he was the first, 
after Euripides, to gather together a library; and the founda¬ 
tion of the principles of library classification was among his 
many contributions to scholarship. Therefore Plato spoke 
of Aristotle’s home as ^Hhe house of the reader,” and seems to 
have meant the sincercst coiiiplimcnt; but some ancient gossip 
will have it that the Master intended a sly but vigorous dig 
at a certain book-wormishness in Aristotle. A more authentic 
quarrel seems to have arisen towards the end of Plato’s life. 
Our ambitious youth apparently developed an ‘‘QGdipus com¬ 
plex” against his spiritual father for tlic favors and affections 
of philosophy, and began to hint that wisdom would not die 
Muth Plato; while the old sage spoke of his pupil as a foal that 
kicks his mother after draining her dry.^ The learned Zel¬ 
ler,- in whose pages Aristotle almost achieves the Nirv.ica of 
respectability, would have us reject tiiese stories; but we may 
presume that where there is still so much smoke there was 
once a flame. 

The other incidents of this Athenian period are still more 
problematical. Some biographers tell us that Aristotle 
founded a school of oratory to rival Isocrates; and that he had 
among his pupils in this school the wealthy Ilermias, who was 
soon to become autocrat of the city-state of Atarneus. After 

1 Benn, The Greek Philosophers, London, 1882, vol. i, p. 283. 

2 Vol. 1, p. 11. 



60 


THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 


reaching this elevation Hermias invited Aristotle to his court; 
and in the year 344 b. c. he rewarded his teacher for past fa¬ 
vors by bestowing upon him a sister (or a niece) in marriage. 
One might suspect this as a Greek gift; but the historians has¬ 
ten to assure us that Aristotle, despite his genius, lived happily 
enough with his wife, and spoke of her most affectionately in 
his will. It was just a year later that Philip, King of Mace- 
don, called Aristotle to the court at Pella to undertake the 
education of Alexander. It bespeaks the rising repute of 
our philosopher that the greatest monarch of the time, look¬ 
ing about for the greatest teacher, should single out Aristotle 
to be the tutor of the future master of the world. 

Philip was determined that his son should have every educa¬ 
tional advantage, for he had made for him illimitable designs. 
His conquest of Thrace in 356 b. c. had given him command 
of gold mines which at once began to yield him precious metal 
to ten times the amount then coming to Athens from the failing 
silver of Laurium; his people were vigorous peasants and 
warriors, as yet unspoiled by city luxury and vice: here was 
the combination that would make possible the subjugation of 
a hundred petty city-states and the political unification of 
Greece. Philip had no sympathy with the individualism that 
had fostered the art and intellect of Greece but had at the 
same time disintegrated her social order; in all these little capi¬ 
tals he saw not the exhilarating culture and the unsurpassable 
art, but the commercial corruption and the political chaos; he 
saw insatiable merchants and bankers absorbing the vital re¬ 
sources of the nation, incompetent politicians and clever ora¬ 
tors misleading a busy populace into disastrous plots and wars, 
factions cleaving classes and classes congealing into castes: 
this, said Philip, was not a nation but only a welter of indi¬ 
viduals—^geniuses and slaves; he would bring the hand of 
order down upon this turmoil, and make all Greece stand up 
united and strong as the political center and basis of the world. 
In his youth in Thebes he had learned the arts of military 
strategy and civil organization under the noble Epaminondas; 



ARISTOTLE 


61 


and now, with courage as boundless as his ambition, he bettered 
the instruction. In 338 n. c. he defeated the Athenians at 
Chaeronea, and saw at last a Greece united, though with 
chains. And then, as he stood upon this victory, and planned 
how lie and his son should master and unify the world, he fell 
under an assassin’s hand. 

Alexander, wlien Aristotle came, was a wild youth of thir¬ 
teen; passionate, epileptic, almost alcoholic; it was his pastime 
to tame horses untamable by men. The efforts of the philos¬ 
opher to cool the fires of this budding volcano were not of much 
-'^vail; Alexander had better success with Bucephalus than 
Aristotle with Alexander. ‘‘For a while,” says Plutarch, 
“Alexander loved and cherished Aristotle no less than as if 
he had been his own father; saying that though he had received 
life from the one, the other had taught him the art of living.” 
(“Life,” says a fine Greek adage, “is the gift of nature; but 
beautiful living is the gift of wisdom.”) “For my part,” said 
Alexander in a letter to Aristotle, “I had rather excel in the 
knowledge of what is good than in the extent of my power and 
dominion.” But this was probably no more than a royal- 
youthful compliment; beneath the enthusiastic tyro of philos¬ 
ophy was the fiery son of a barbarian princess and an untamed 
king; the restraints of reason were too delicate to hold these 
ancestral passions in leash; and Alexander left philosophy 
after two years to mount the throne and ride the world. His¬ 
tory leaves us free to believe (though we should suspect these 
pleasant thoughts) that Alexander’s unifying passion derived 
some of its force and grandeur from his teacher, the most 
synthetic thinker in the history of thought; and that the con¬ 
quest of order in the political realm by tlie pupil, and in the 
philosophic realm by the master, were but diverse sides of one 
noble and epic project—two magnificent Macedonians unify¬ 
ing two chaotic worlds. 

Setting out to conquer Asia, Alexander left behind him, in 
tht cities of Greece, governments favorable to him but popula¬ 
tions resolutely hostile. The long tradition of a free and once 



62 


THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 


imperial Athens made subjection—even to a brilliant world- 
conquering despot—intolerable; and the bitter eloquence of 
Demosthenes kept the Assembly always on the edge of revolt 
against the “Macedonian party” that held the reins of city 
power. Now when Aristotle, after another period of travel, 
returned to Athens in the year 334 b. c., he very naturally 
associated with this Macedonian group, and took no pains to 
conceal his approval of Alexander’s unifying rule. As we 
study the remarkable succession of works, in speculation and 
research, which Aristotle proceeded to unfold in the last twelve 
years of his life; and as we watch him in his multifold tasks of 
organizing his school, and of coordinating such a wealth of 
knowledge as probably never before had passed through the 
mind of one man; let us occasionally remember that this was 
no quiet and secure pursuit of truth; that at any minute the 
political sky might change, and precipitate a storm in this 
peaceful philosophic life. Only with this situation in mind 
shall we understand Aristotle’s political philosophy, and his 
tragic end. 


II. THE WORK OF ARISTOTLE 

It was not hard for the instructor of the king of kings to 
find pupils even in so hostile a city as Athens. When, in 
the fifty-third year of his age, Aristotle established his school, 
the lejceum, so many students flocked to him that it became 
necessary to make complicated regulations for the maintenance 
of order. The students themselves determined the rules, and 
elected, every ten days, one of their number to supervise the 
School. But we must not think of it as a place of rigid dis¬ 
cipline ; rather the picture which comes down to us is of scholars 
eating their meals in common with the master, and learning 
from him as he and they strolled up and down the Walk along 
the athletic field from which the Lyceum took its name.^ 

iThe Walk was called Peripatos; hence the later name, Peripatetic School 
The athletic field was part of the grounds of tlic temple of Apollo Lyceua—s 
the protector of the flock against the wolf (lycos). 



ARISTOTLE 


63 


The new School was no mere replica of that which Plato had 
left behind him. The Academy was devoted above all to 
mathematics and to speculative and political philosophy; the 
Lyceum had rather a tendency to biology and the natural sci¬ 
ences. If we may believe Pliny,^ Alexander instructed his 
hunters, gamekeepers, gardeners and fisliermen to furnish 
Aristotle with all the zoological and botanical material he 
might desire; other ancient writers tell us that at one time he 
had at his disposal a thousand men scattered throughout 
Greece and Asia, collecting for him s])eciinens of the fauna 
and flora of every land. With this wealth of material he was 
enabled to establish the first great zoological garden that the 
world had seen. We can hardly exaggerate the influence of 
this collection upon his science and his philosophy. 

Where did Aristotle derive the funds to finance these under¬ 
takings.? He was himself, by this time, a man of spacious 
income; and he had married into the fortune of one of the most 
powerful public men in Greece. Athenaeus (no doubt with 
some exaggeration) relates that Alexander ga\e Aristotle, for 
physical and biological equipment and research, the sum of 
800 talents (in modern purchasing power, some $4,000,000).^ 
It was at Aristotle’s suggestion, some think, that Alexander 
sent a costly expedition to explore the sources of the Nile 
and discover the causes of its periodical overflow.^ Such 
works as the digest of 158 political constitutions, drawn up for 
Aristotle, indicate a considerable corps of aides and secretaries. 
In short we have here the first example in European history 
of the large-scale financing of science by public wealth. What 
knowledge would we not win if modern states were to support 
research on a proportionately lavish scale! 

Yet we should do Aristotle injustice if we were to ignore 

1//iVf. Nat., viii, 16; in Lewes, Aristotle, a Chapter from the History of 
Science, London, 1864, p. 15. 

2(lrant, Aristotle, Edinburgh, 1877, p. 18. 

8 The expedition reported that the inundations were due to the melting of 
the snow on the mountains of Abyssinia. 



64 


THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 


the almost fatal limitations of equipment which accomi)anied 
these unprecedented resources and facilities. He was com¬ 
pelled ‘Ho fix time without a w^atch, to compare degrees of heat 
without a thermometer, to observe the heavens w ithout a tele¬ 
scope, and the weather without a barometer. ... Of all our 
mathematical, optical and physical instruments he possessed 
only the rule and compass, together with the most imperfect 
substitutes for some few others. Chemical analysis, correct 
measurements and w^eights, and a thorough application of 
mathematics to physics, were unknown. The attractive force 
of matter, tlie law of gravitation, electrical phenomena, the 
conditions of chemical combination, pressure of air and its 
effects, the nature of light, heat, combustion, etc., in short, all 
the facts on w^hich the physical theories of modern science are 
based w^ere wholly, or almost wdiolly, undiscovered.” ^ 

See, here, how inventions make history: for lack of a tele¬ 
scope Aristotle’s astronomy is a tissue of childish romance; 
for lack of a microscope his biology w anders endlessly astray. 
Indeed, it w^as in industrial and technical invention that Greece 
fell farthest below the general standard of its unparalleled 
achievements. The Greek disdain of manual work kept every¬ 
body but the listless slave from direct acquaintance with the 
processes of production, from that stimulating contact with 
machinery which reveals defects and prefigures possibilities; 
technical invention was possible only to those who had no inter¬ 
est in it, and could not derive from it any material rew^ard. 
Perhaps the very cheapness of the slaves made invention lag; 
muscle was still less costly than machines. And so, while 
Greek commerce conquered the Mediterranean Sea, and Greek 
philosophy conquered the Mediterranean mind, Greek science 
straggled, and Greek industry remained almost wdiere iKgean 
industry had been when the invading Greeks had come dowm 
upon it, at Cnossus, at Tiryns and Mycene, a thousand 
years before. No doubt we have here the reason why Aris¬ 
totle so seldom appeals to experiment; the mechanisms of 
1 7«eUer. \ 264, 44a 



ARISTOTLE 


66 


experiment had not yet been made; and the best he could do 
was to achieve an almost universal and continuous observa¬ 
tion. Nevertheless the vast body of data gathered by him 
and his assistants became the groundwork of the progress of 
science, the text-book of knowledge for two thousand years; 
one of the wonders of the work of man. 

Aristotle’s writings ran into the hundreds. Some ancient 
authors credit him with four hundred volumes, others with a 
thousand. What remains is but a part, and yet it is a library 
in itself—conceive the scope and grandeur of the whole. 
There are, first, the Logical works: ‘‘Categories,” “Topics,” 
“Prior” and “Posterior Analytics,” “Propositions,” and “So¬ 
phistical Refutation”; these works were collected and edited 
by the later Peripatetics under the general title of Aristotle’s 
“Organon,”—that is, the organ or instrument of correct think¬ 
ing. Secondly, there are the Scientific works: “Physics,” 
“On the Heavens,” “Growth and Decay,” “Meteorology,’^ 
“Natural History,” “On the Soul,” “The Parts of Animals,” 
“The Movements of Animals,” and “The Generation of Ani¬ 
mals.” There are, thirdly, the Esthetic works: “Rhetoric” 
and “Poetics.” And fourthly come the more strictly Philo¬ 
sophical works: “Ethics,” “Politics,” and “Metaphysics.” ^ 

Here, evidently, is the Encyclopedia Britannica of Greece: 
every problem under the sun and about it finds a place; no 
wonder there are more errors and absurdities in Aristotle than 
in any other philosopher who ever wrote. Here is such a syn¬ 
thesis of knowledge and theory as no man would ever achieve 
again till Spencer’s day, and even then not half so magnifi¬ 
cently ; here, better than Alexander’s fitful and brutal victory, 
was a conquest of the world. If philosophy is the quest of 
unity Aristotle deserves the high name that twenty centuries 
gave him —Ille Philosophus: The Philosopher. 

Naturally, in a mind of such scientific turn, poesy was lack¬ 
ing. We must not expect of Aristotle such literary brilliance 

1 This is the chronological order, so far as known (Zeller, i, 156 f). Our dis¬ 
cussion will follow this order except in the case of the “Metaphysics.’' 



66 


THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 


as floods the pages of the dramatist-philosopher Plato. In¬ 
stead of giving us great literature, in which philosophy is em¬ 
bodied (and obscured) in myth and imagery, Aristotle gives 
us science, technical, abstract, concentrated; if we go to him 
for entertainment we shall sue for the return of our money. 
Instead of giving terms to literature, as Plato did, he built 
the terminology of science and philosophy; we can hardly 
speak of any science today without employing terms which he 
invented; they lie like fossils in the strata of our speech: fac- 
ulty^ mean, maxim, (meaning, in Aristotle, the major premiss 
of a syllogism), category, energy, actuality, motive, end, prin¬ 
ciple, form —these indispensable coins of philosophic thought 
were minted in his mind. And perhaps this passage from 
delightful dialogue to precise scientific treatise was a neces¬ 
sary step in the development of philosophy; and science, which 
is the basis and backbone of philosophy, could not grow until 
it had evolved its o\\ti strict methods of procedure and expreS' 
sion. Aristotle, too, wrote literary dialogues, as highly re¬ 
puted in their day as Plato’s; but they are lost, just as the 
scientific treatises of Plato have perished. Probably time has 
preserved of each man the better part. 

Finally, it is possible that the writings attributed to Aris¬ 
totle were not his, but were largely the compilations of students 
and followers who had embalmed the unadorned substance of 
his lectures in their notes. It does not anpear that Aristotle 
published in his life-time any technical w»utings except those 
on logic and rhetoric; and the present f^>rin of the logical 
treatises is due to later editing. In the -^ase of the Meta¬ 
physics and the Politics the notes left by Ari^^totle seem to have 
been put together by his executors without revision or altera¬ 
tion. Even the unity of style which mark* Aristotle’s writ¬ 
ings, and offers an argument to those who defend his direct 
authorship, may be, after all, merely a unity given them 
through common editing by the Peripatetic School. About 
this matter there rages a sort of Homeric question, of almost 
epic scope, into which the busy reader will not care to go, and 



ARISTOTLE 


67 


on which a modest student will not undertake to judge.^ We 
may at all events be sure that Aristotle is the spiritual author 
of all these books that bear his name: that the hand may be in 
some cases another’s hand, but that the head and the heart 
are his.- 


III. THE FOUNDATION OF LOGIC 

The first great distinction of Aristotle is that almost with¬ 
out predecessors, almost entirely by his own hard thinking, he 
created a new science—Logic. Renan ^ speaks of ‘‘the ill 
training of every mind that has not, directly or indirectly, 
come under Greek discipline”; but in truth the Greek intellect 
itself was undisciplined and chaotic till tlie ruthless formulas 
of Aristotle provided a ready method for the test and correc¬ 
tion of thought. Even Plato (if a lover may so far presume) 
was an unruly and irregular soul, caught up too frequently in 
a cloud of myth, and letting beauty too richly veil the face of 
truth. Aristotle himself, as wq shall see, violated his own can¬ 
ons plentifully; but then he was the product of his past, and 
not of that future which his thought would build. The polit¬ 
ical and economic decay of Greece brought a weakening of the 
Hellenic mind and character after Aristotle; but when a new 
race, after a millennium of barbaric darkness, found again the 
leisure and ability for speculation, it was Aristotle’s “Or¬ 
ganon” of logic, translated by Boethius (470-525 a. d.), that 
became the very mould of medieval thought, the strict mother 
of that scholastic philosophy which, though rendered sterile 
by encircling dogmas, nevertheless trained the intellect of ado- 

1 Cf. Zeller, ii, 20i, note; and Shule: History of the Aristotelian Writings, 

2 The reader who wishes to go to the philosopher himself will find the Me¬ 
teorology an interesting example of Aristotle’s scientific work; he will derive 
much practical instruction from the Rhetoric; and he will find Aristotle at his 
best in books i-ii of the Ethics, and books i-iv of the Politics, The best 
translation of the Ethics is Welldon's; of the Politics, Jowett’s. Sir Alexan¬ 
der Grant’s Aristotle is a simple book; Zeller’s Aristotle (vols. iii-iv in his 
Greek Philosophy)^ is scholarly but dry; Gomperz’s Greek Thinkers (vol. iv) 
Is masterly but difficult. 

^History of the People of Israel, vol. v, p. 338. 



THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 


68 

lescent Europe to reasoning and subtlety, constructed the 
terminology of modern science, and laid the bases of that same 
maturity of mind which was to outgrow and overthrow the 
very system and methods which had given it birth and sus¬ 
tenance. 

Logic means, simply, the art and method of correct think¬ 
ing. It is the logy or method of every science, of every dis¬ 
cipline and every art; and even music harbors it. It is a 
science because to a considerable extent the processes of cor¬ 
rect thinking can be reduced to rules like physics and geom¬ 
etry, and taught to any normal mind; it is an art because 
by practice it gives to thought, at last, that unconscious and 
immediate accuracy which guides the fingers of the pianist 
over his instrument to effortless harmonies. Nothing is so 
dull as logic, and nothing is so important. 

There was a hint of this new science in Socrates’ maddening 
insistence on definitions, and in Plato’s constant refining of 
every concept. Aristotle’s little treatise on Definitions shows 
how his logic found nourishment at this source. “If you wish 
to converse with me,” said Voltaire, “define your terms.” 
How many a debate would have been deflated into a paragraph 
if the disputants had dared to define their terms! This is 
the alpha and omega of logic, the heart and soul of it, that 
every important term in serious discourse shall be subjected 
to strictest scrutiny and definition. It is difficult, and ruth¬ 
lessly tests the mind; but once done it is half of any task. 

How shall we proceed to define an object or a term? 
Aristotle answers that every good definition has two parts, 
stands on two solid feet: first, it assigns the object in question 
to a class or group whose general characteristics are also its 
own—so man is, first of all, an animal; and secondly, it in¬ 
dicates wherein the object differs from all the other members 
in its class—so man, in the Aristotelian system, is a rational 
animal, his “specific difference” is that unlike all other ani¬ 
mals he is rational (here is the origin of a pretty legend). 
Aristotle drops an object into the ocean of its class, then takes 



ARISTOTLE 


69 


it out all dripping with generic meaning, with the marks of 
its kind and group; while its individuality and difference shine 
out all the more clearly for this juxtaposition with other ob¬ 
jects that resemble it so much and are so different. 

Passing out from this rear line of logic we come into the 
great battle-field on which Aristotle fought out with Plato the 
dread question of ^^universals”; it was the first conflict in a 
war which was to last till our own day, and make all medieval 
Europe ring with the clash of ‘‘realists” and “nominalists.” ^ 
A universal, to Aristotle, is any common noun, any name capa¬ 
ble of universal application to the members of a class: so ani¬ 
mal^ marly hooky treCy are unlvcrsals. Rut these unlvcrsals are 
subjective notions, not tangibly objective realities; they are 
noinina (names), not res (things); all that exists outside us 
is a world of individual and specific objects, not of generic and 
universal things; men exist, and trees, and animals; but man- 
in-general, or the universal man, does not exist, except in 
thought; he is a handy mental abstraction, not an external 
presence or r^r-ality. 

Now Aristotle understands Plato to have held that uni- 
versals have objective existence; and indeed Plato had said 
that the universal is incomparably more lasting and important 
and substantial than the individual,—the latter being but a 
little wavelet in a ceaseless surf; men come and go, but man 
goes on forever. Aristotle's is a matter-of-fact mind; as Wil¬ 
liam James would say, a tough, not a tender, mind; he sees 
the root of endless mysticism and scholarly nonsense in this 
Platonic “realism”; and he attacks it with all the vigor of a 
first polemic. As Brutus loved not Caesar less but Rome 
more, so Aristotle says. Amicus PlatOy sed magis arnica veritas 
—“Dear is Plato, but dearer still is truth.” 

A hostile commentator might remark that Aristotle (like 
Nietzsche) criticizes Plato so keenly because he is conscious 
of having borrowed from him generously; no man is a hero 

1 It was in reference to this debate that Friedrich Schlegel said, “Every 
man is born either a Platonist or an Aristotelian” (in Bcnn, i, 29i). 



70 


THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 


to his debtors. But Aristotle has a healthy attitude, never' 
theless; he is a realist almost in the modern sense; he is resolved 
to concern himself with the objective present, while Plato is 
absorbed in a subjective future. There was, in the Socratic- 
Platonic demand for definitions, a tendency away from things 
and facts to theories and ideas, from particulars to general¬ 
ities, from science to scholasticism; at last Plato became so 
devoted to generalities that tlicy began to determine his partic¬ 
ulars, so devoted to ideas that they began to define or select 
his facts. Aristotle preaches a return to things, to the “un- 
withered face of nature” and reality; he had a lusty preference 
for the concrete particular, for the flesh and blood individual. 
But Plato so loved the general and universal that in the Re¬ 
public he destroyed the individual to make a perfect state. 

Yet, as is the usual humor of history, the young warrior 
takes over many of the qualities of the old master whom he 
assails. We have always goodly stock in us of that which we 
condemn: as only similars can be profitably contrasted, so only 
similar people quarrel, and the bitterest wars are over the 
slightest variations of purpose or belief. The knightly Cru¬ 
saders found in Saladin a gentleman with whom they couk 
quarrel amicably; but when the Christians of Europe broke 
into hostile camps there was no quarter for even the courtliest 
foe. Aristotle is so ruthless with Plato because there is so 
much of Plato in him; he too remains a lover of abstractions 
and generalities, repeatedly betraying the simple fact for some 
speciously bedizened theory, and compelled to a continuous 
struggle to conquer his philosophic passion for exploring the 
empyrean. 

There is a heavy trace of this in the most characteristic 
and original of Aristotle’s contributions to philosophy—^the 
doctrine of the syllogism. A syllogism is a trio of proposi¬ 
tions of which the third (the conclusion) follows from the 
conceded truth of the other two (the “major” and “minor’* 
premisses). E. g., man is a rational animal; but Socrates is a 



ARISTOTLE 


71 


man; therefore Socrates is a rational animal. The mathemat¬ 
ical reader will see at once that the structure of the syllogism 
resembles the proposition that two things equal to the same 
thing arc equal to each oHier; if A is B, and C is A, then C 
is B. As in the mathematical case tlie conclusion is reached 
by canceling from both premisses their common term, A; so 
in our sjdlogism the conclusion is reached by canceling from 
both premisses their common term “man,” and combining 
what remains. The difficulty, as logicians have pointed out 
from the days of Pyrrho to those of Stuart Mill, lies in this, 
that the major premiss of the syllogism takes for granted 
precisely the point to be proved; for if Socrates is not rational 
(and no one questions that he is a man) it is not uni¬ 
versally true that man is a rational animal. Aristotle would 
reply, no doubt, that where an individual is found to have a 
large number of qualities characteristic of a class (“Socrates 
is a man”), a strong presumption is established that the in^ 
dividual has the other qualities characteristic of the class 
(“rationality”). But apparently the syllogism is not a 
mechanism for the discovery of truth so much as for the clari¬ 
fication of exposition and thought. 

All this, like the many other items of the Organon, has its 
value: “Aristotle has discovered and formulated every canon of 
theoretical consistency, and every artifice of dialectical debate, 
with an industry and acuteness which cannot be too highly 
extolled; and liis labors in this direction have perhaps con¬ 
tributed more than any other single writer to the intellectual 
stimulation of after ages.” ^ But no man ever lived wdio could 
lift logic to a lofty strain: a guide to correct reasoning is as 
elevating as a manual of etiquette; we may use it, but it hardly 
spurs us to nobility. Not even the bravest philosopher would 
sing to a book of logic underneath the bough. One ahvays 
feels tow^ards logic as Virgil bade Dante feel tow ards those who 
had been damned because of their colorless neutrality: No/^ 

1 Denn^ i, 307. 



72 


THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 


ragionam di lor^ ma gnarda e passa ^—“Let us think no more 
about them, but look once and pass on.” 

IV. THE ORGANIZATION OF SCIENCE 

1. Greek Science Before Aristotle 

“Socrates,” says Renan,- “gave pliilosophy to mankind, 
and Aristotle gave it science. There was philosophy before 
Socrates, and science before Aristotle; and since Socrates and 
since Aristotle, philosophy and science have made immense ad¬ 
vances. But all has been built upon the foundation which 
they laid.” Before Aristotle, science was in embryo; with him 
it was born. 

Earlier civilizations than the Greek had made attempts at 
science; but so far as we can catch their thought through their 
still obscure cuneiform and hierogh’^phic script, their science 
was indistinguishable from theology. That is to say, these 
pre-Hellenic peoples explained every obscure operation in na¬ 
ture by some supernatural agency; everywhere there were 
gods. Apparently it was the Ionian Greeks who first dared 
to give natural explanations of cosmic complexities and mys¬ 
terious events: they sought in physics the natural causes of 
particular incidents, and in philosophy a natural theory of 
the whole. Thales (640-550 b. c.), the “Father of Philos¬ 
ophy,” was primarily an astronomer, who astonished the na¬ 
tives of Miletus by informing them that the sun and stars 
(which they were wont to worship as gods) were merely balls 
of fire. His pupil Anaximander (610-540 b. c.), the first 
Greek to make astronomical and geographical charts, believed 
that the universe had begun as an undifferentiated mass, from 
which all things had arisen by the separation of opposites; 
that astronomic history periodically repeated itself in the evo¬ 
lution and dissolution of an infinite number of worlds; that 
the earth was at rest in space by a balance of internal impul- 

1 Inferno, iii, 60. 

2 XAfe of J0SV4, ch. 28. 



ARISTOTLE 


73* 

slons (like Buridan’s ass) ; that all our planets had once been 
fluid, but had been evaporated by the sun; that life had first 
been formed in the sea, but had been driven upon the land by 
the subsidence of the water; that of these stranded animals 
some had developed the capacity to breathe air, and had so 
become the progenitors of all later land life; that man could 
not from tlie beginning have been what lie now was, for if 
man, on his first appearance, had been so helpless at birth, and 
had required so long an adolescence, as in these later days, 
he could not possibly have survived. Anaximenes, another 
Milesian (fl. 450 n. c.), described the primeval condition of 
things as a very rarefied mass, gradually condensing into wind, 
cloud, water, earth, and stone; the three forms of matter— 
gas, liquid and solid—were progressive stages of condensation; 
heat and cold were merely rarefaction and condensation; earth¬ 
quakes were due to the solidification of an originally fluid 
earth; life and soul were one, an animating and expansive force 
present in everything everywhere. Anaxagoras (500-428 
B. c.), teacher of Pericles, seems to have given a correct ex¬ 
planation of solar and lunar eclipses; he discovered the proc¬ 
esses of respiration in plants and fishes; and he explained 
man’s intelligence by the power of manipulation that came 
when the fore-limbs were freed from the tasks of locomotion. 
Slowly, in these men, knowledge grew into science. 

Heraclitus (530—470 b. c.), who left wealth and its cares 
to live a life of poverty and study in the shade of the temple 
porticoes at Ephesus, turned science from astronomy to earth- 
lier concerns. All things forever flow and change, he said; 
even in the stillest matter there is unseen flux and movement. 
Cosmic history runs in repetitious cj^cles, each beginning and 
ending in fire (here is one source of the Stoic and Christian 
doctrine of last judgment and hell). ^‘Through strife,” says 
Heraclitus, ‘‘all things arise and j^ass away. . . . War is the 
father and king of all: some he has made gods, and some men; 
some slaves, and some free.” Where there is no strife there is 
decay: “the mixture which is not shaken decomposes,” In this 



74 


THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 


flux of change and struggle and selection, only one thing ia 
constant, and that is law. “This order, the same for all 
things, no one of gods or men has made; but it alwa 3 's was, 
and is, and shall be.” Empedocles (fl. 445 n. c., in Sicily) de¬ 
veloped to a further stage the idea of evolution.^ Organs arise 
not by design but by selection. Nature makes many trials 
and experiments with organisms, combining organs variously; 
where the combination meets environmental needs the organ¬ 
ism survives and perpetuates its like; where the combination 
fails, the organism is weeded out; as time goes on, organisms 
are more and more intricately and successfully adapted to 
their surroundings. Finally, in Leucippus (fl. 445 b. c.) and 
Democritus (460-360), master and pupil in Thracian Abdera, 
we get the last stage of pre-Aristotelian science—materialistic, 
deterministic atomism. “Everything,” said Leucippus, “is 
driven by necessitj'.” “In realitj',” said Democritus, “there 
are only atoms and the void.” Perception is due to the ex¬ 
pulsion of atoms from the object upon the sense organ 
There is or have been or will be an infinite number of worlds; 
at every moment planets are colliding and dying, and new 
worlds are rising out of chaos by the selective aggregation of 
atoms of similar size and shape. There is no design; the uni¬ 
verse is a machine. 

This, in dizzy and superficial summary, is the story of Greek 
science before Aristotle. Its cruder items can be well for¬ 
given when we consider the narrow circle of experimental an^ 
observational equipment within which these pioneers were com¬ 
pelled to work. The stagnation of Greek industry under the 
incubus of slavery prevented the full develo])ment of these 
magnificent beginnings; and the rapid complication of polit¬ 
ical life in Athens turned the Sophists and Socrates and Plato 
away from physical and biological research into the paths 
of ethical and political theory. It is one of the many glories 
of Aristotle that he was broad and brave enough to com- 

^Cf. Osborn, From tho Greeks to Darwin; and M. Arnold, Empedocles on 
Etna, 



ARISTOTLE 


75 

pass and combine these two lines of Greek thought, the 
physical and the moral; that going back beyond his teacher, 
he caught again tlie thread of scientific development in the jire- 
Socratic Greeks, carried on their work with more resolute de¬ 
tail and more varied observation, and brought together all 
the accumulated results in a magnificent body of organized 
science. 


2. Arhtotle as a Naturalist 

If we begin here chronologically, with his PliysicSj we shall 
be disappointed; for we find that this treatise is really a meta¬ 
physics^ an abstruse analysis of matter, motion, space, tirne, 
infinity, cause, and other such ^‘ultimate concepts.’’ One of 
the more lively passages is an attack on Democritus’ ‘S^oid”: 
there can be no void or vacuum in nature, says Aristotle, for 
in a vacuum all bodies would fall with equal velocity; this 
being impossible, ‘‘the supposed void turns out to have nothing 
in it”—an instance at once of Aristotle’s very occasional hu¬ 
mor, his addiction to unproved assumptions, and his tendency 
to disparage his predecessors in philosophy. It was the habit 
of our philosopher to preface his works with historical sketches 
of previous contributions to the subject in hand, and to add to 
every contribution an annihilating refutation. “Aristotle, 
after the Ottoman manner,” says Bacon, “thought he could not 
reign secure without putting all his brethren to death.” ^ But 
to this fratricidal mania we owe much of our knowledge of pre- 
Socratic thought. 

For reasons already given, Aristotle’s astronomy represents 
very little advance upon his predecessors. He rejects the view 
of Pythagoras that the sun is the center of our sj’stcm; he 
prefers to give that honor to the earth. But the little treatise 
on meteorology is full of brilliant observations, and even its 
speculations strike illuminating fire. This is a cyclic world, 
says our philosopher: the sun forever evaporates the sea, dries 
up rivers and springs, and transforms at last the boundless 

1 Advancement of Learning, bk. iii, ch. 4. 



T6 THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 

ocean into the barest rock; while conversely the uplifted mois¬ 
ture, gathered into clouds, falls and renews the rivers and the 
seas. Everywhere change goes on, imperceptibly but effec¬ 
tively. Egypt is ‘‘the work of the Nile,” the product of its 
deposits through a thousand centuries. Here the sea en¬ 
croaches upon the land, there the land reaches out timidly into 
the sea; new continents and new oceans rise, old oceans and 
old continents disappear, and all the face of the world is 
changed and rechanged in a great systole and diastole of 
growth and dissolution. Sometimes these vast effects occur 
suddenly, and destroy the geological and material bases of 
civilization and even of life; great catastrophes have period¬ 
ically denuded the earth and reduced man again to his first 
beginnings; like Sisyphus, civilization has repeatedly neared 
its zenith only to fall back into barbarism and begin da capo 
its upward travail. Hence the almost “eternal recurrence,” 
in civilization after civilization, of the same inventions and dis¬ 
coveries, the same “dark ages” of slow economic and cultural 
accumulation, the same rebirths of learning and science and 
art. No doubt some popular myths are vague traditions sur¬ 
viving from earlier cultures. So the story of man runs in a 
dreary circle, because he is not yet master of the earth that 
holds him. 


> 3. The Foundation of Biology 

As Aristotle walked wondering through his great zoological 
garden, he became convinced that the infinite variety of life 
could be arranged in a continuous series in which each link 
would be almost indistinguishable from the next. In all re¬ 
spects, whether in structure, or mode of life, or reproduction 
and rearing, or sensation and feeling, there are minute grada¬ 
tions and progressions from the lowest organisms to the high¬ 
est.^ At the bottom of the scale we can scarcely divide the 
living from the “dead”; “nature makes so gradual a transi¬ 
tion from the inanimate to the animate kingdom that the bound- 

Animalivm, viiL 



ARISTOTLE 


77 


ary lines which separate them are indistinct and doubtful”; 
and perhaps a degree of life exists even in the inorganic. 
Again, many species cannot wdth certainty be called plants 
or animals. And as in these lower organisms it is almost 
impossible at times to assign them to their proper genus and 
species, so similar are they; so in every order of life the con¬ 
tinuity of gradations and differences is as remarkable as the 
diversity of functions and forms. But in the midst of this 
bewildering richness of structures certain things stand out 
convincingly: that life has grown steadily in complexity and 
in power; ^ that intelligence has progressed in correlation with 
complexity of structure and mobility of form; - that there 
has been an increasing specialization of function, and a contin¬ 
uous centralization of physiological control.’^ Slowly life 
created for itself a nervous system and a brain; and mind 
moved resolutely on towards the mastery of its environment. 

The remarkable fact here is that with all these gradations 
and similarities leaping to Aristotle’s eyes, he does not come 
to the theory of evolution. He rejects Empedocles’ doctrine 
that all organs and organisms are a survival of the fittest,^ 
and Anaxagoras’ idea that man became intelligent by using his 
hands for manipulation rather than for movement; Aristotle 
thinks, on the contrary, that man so used his hands because 
he had become intelligent.^ Indeed, Aristotle makes as many 
mistakes as possible for a man wdio is founding the science of 
biology. He thinks, for example, that the male clement in 
reproduction merely stimulates and quickens; it does not occur 
to him (what wc now know from experiments in parthenogene¬ 
sis) that the essential function of the sperm is not so much to 
fertilize the ovum as to provide the embryo with the heritable 
qualities of the male parent, and so permit the offspring to 
be a vigorous variant, a new admixture of tw^o ancestral lines. 

1 De Animaf li, 2. 

^ De Partibvs Animalium, i, 7; ii, 10. 

3 Ibid, iv, 5-6. 

4 De Anima, ii, 4. 

^De Part, An., iv. 10. 



78 


THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 


As human dissection was not practised in his time, he is par¬ 
ticularly fertile in physiological errors: he knows nothing of 
muscles, not even of their existence; he does not distinguish 
arteries from veins; he thinks the brain is an organ for cooling 
the blood; he believes, forgivably, that man has more sutures 
in the skull than woman; he believes, less forgivably, that man 
has only eight ribs on each side; he believes, incredibly, and 
unforgivably, that woman has fewer teeth than man.^ Ap¬ 
parently liis relations with women were of the most amicable 
kind. 

Yet he makes a greater total advance in biology than any 
Greek before or after him. He perceives that birds and rep¬ 
tiles are near allied in structure; tliat the monkey is in form 
intermediate between quadrupeds and man; and once he boldly 
declares that man belongs in one group of animals with the 
viviparous quadrupeds (our “mammals”).^ He remarks that 
the soul in infancy is scarcely distinguishable from the sou] 
of animals.® He makes the illuminating observation that diet 
often determines the mode of life; “for of beasts some are gre¬ 
garious, and others solitary—^they live in the way which is 
best adapted to . . . obtain the food of their choice.” He 
anticipates Von Baer’s famous law that characters common to 
the genus (like eyes and ears) appear in the developing or¬ 
ganism before characters peculiar to its species (like the 
“formula” of the teeth), or to its individual self (like the final 
color of the eyes) ; ® and he reaches out across two thousand 
years to anticipate Spencer’s generalization that individuation 
varies inversely as genesis—that is, tliat the more highly de¬ 
veloped and specialized a species or an individual happens to 
be, the smaller will be the number of its offspring.® He no- 

1 Gomperz, iv, 57; Zeller, i, 262, note; Lewes, 158, 165, etc. 

2 Hist, An, i, S 

9 Ibid., viii, 1, 

4 Politic8f 1, 8, 

^Ilist. An, i, 6; ii, 8. 

^De Oeneratione Animaliwm, ii, li. 



ARISTOTLE 


79 


tices and explains reversion to type—the tendency of a prom¬ 
inent variation (like genius) to be diluted in mating and lost 
in successive generations. He makes many zoological observa¬ 
tions which, temporarily rejected by later biologists, have been 
confirmed by modern research—of fishes that make nests, for 
example, and sharks that boast of a placenta. 

And finally he establishes the science of embryology. “He 
who sees things grow from their beginning,” he writes, “will 
have the finest view of them.” Hippocrates (b. 460 b. r.), 
greatest of Greek physicians, had given a fine example of the 
experimental method, by breaking a hen’s eggs at various 
stages of incubation; and had applied the results of these 
studies in his treatise “On the Oi’igin of the Child.” Aristotle 
followed this lead and performed experiments that enabled 
him to give a description of the development of the chick 
which even today arouses the admiration of embryologists.^ 
He must have performed some novel experiments in genetics, 
for he disproves the theory that the sex of the child depends 
on what testis supplies the reproductive fluid, by quoting a 
case where the right testis of the father had been tied and yet 
the children had been of different sexes.” He raises some very 
modern problems of heredity. A woman of Elis had married 
a negro; her children were all whites, but in the next genera" 
tion negroes reappeared; where, asks Aristotle, was the black¬ 
ness hidden in the middle generation ? * There was but a 
step from such a vital and intelligent query to the epochal 
experiments of Gregor Mendel (1822—1882). Prudens 
queestio dimidium scicntice —to know what to ask is already 
to know half. Surely, despite the errors that mar these bio¬ 
logical works, they form the greatest monument ever raised to 
the science by any one man. When we consider that before 
Aristotle there had been, so far as we know, no biology be- 

1 De Part, An., iii, 4. 

2 Lewes, 112. 

«Gomperz, iv, 169, 



80 


THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 


yond scattered observations, we perceive that this achievement 
alone might have sufficed for one life-time, and wo^d have 
given immortality. But Aristotle had only begun, r 

METAPHYSICS AND THE NATURE OF GOD 

His metaphysics grew out of his biology. Everything in 
the world is moved by an inner urge to become something 
greater than it is. Everything is both the form or reality 
which has grown out of something which was its viattcr or 
raw material; and it may in its turn be the matter out of which 
still higher forms will grow. So the man is the form of 
which the child was the matter; the child is the form and its 
embryo the matter; the embryo the form, the ovum the 
matter; and so back till we reach in a vague way the concep¬ 
tion of matter without form at all. But such a formless 
matter would be no-thing, for every thing has a form. 
Matter, in its widest sense, is the possibility of form; form is 
the actuality, the finished reality, of matter. Matter ob¬ 
structs, form constructs. Form is not merely the shape but 
the shaping force, an inner necessity and impulse which moulds 
mere material to a specific figure and purpose; it is the realh 
zation of a potential capacity of matter; it is the sum of the 
powers residing in anything to do, to be, or to become. Na¬ 
ture is the conquest of matter by form, the constant progres¬ 
sion and victory of life.^ 

Everything in the world moves naturally to a specific ful¬ 
filment. Of the varied causes which determine an event, the 
final cause, which determines the purpose, is the most decisive 
and important. The mistakes and futilities of nature are due 
to the inertia of matter resisting the forming force of purpose 
—hence the abortions and monsters that mar the panorama 
of life. Development is not haphazard or accidental (else 

1 Half of our readers will bel pleased, and the other half amused, to learn, 
that among Aristotle’s favorite examples of matter and form are woman and 
man; the male is the active, formative principle; the female is passive clay, 
waiting to be formed. Female offspring are the result of the failure of form 
to dominate matter (De Oen. An., i, 2). 



ARISTOTLE 


81 


how could we explain the almost universal appearance and 
transmission of useful organs?) ; everything is guided in a 
certain direction from within, by its nature and structure and 
eiitelechy; ^ the egg of the hen is internally designed or 
destined to become not a duck but a chick; the acorn becomes 
not a willow but an oak. This does not mean for Aristotle 
that there is an external providence designing earthly struc¬ 
tures and events; rather the design is internal, and arises 
from the type and function of the thing. ‘‘Divine Provi¬ 
dence coincides completely for Aristotle with the operation of 
natural causes.” ^ 

Yet there is a God, though not perhaps the simple and 
human god conceived by the forgivable anthropomorphism of 
the adolescent mind. Aristotle approaches the problem from 
the old puzzle about motion—how, he asks, does motion begin? 
He will not accept the possibility that motion is as beginning- 
less as he conceives matter to be: matter may be eternal, 
because it is merely the everlasting possibility of luture forms; 
but when and how did that vast process of motion and forma¬ 
tion begin which at last filled the wide universe with an infinity 
of shapes? Surely motion has a source, says Aristotle; and 
if we are not to plunge drearily into an infinite regress, put¬ 
ting back our problem step by step endlessly, we must posit 
a prime mover unmoved {primum mobile immotum)^ a being 
incorporeal, indivisible, spaceless, sexless, passionless, change¬ 
less, perfect and eternal. God does not create, but he moves, 
the world; and he moves it not as a mechanical force but as 
the total motive of all operations in the world; “God moves 
the world as the beloved object moves the lover.” ® He is the 
final cause of nature, the drive and purpose of things, the 
form of the world; the principle of its life, the sum of its 
vital processes and powers, the inherent goal of its growth, 

^ Entelecheia —having (echo) its purpose (felos) within (enfos); one of 
those magnificent Aristotelian terms which gather up into themselves a whole 
philosophy. 

^Ethics, i, 10; Zeller, ii, 329. 

^Metaphysics, ix, 7. 



82 


THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 


the energizing entelechy of the whole. He is pure energy; ^ 
the Scholastic Actus Purus —activity per se; perhaps the 
mystic “Force” of modern physics and philosophy. He is 
not so much a person as a magnetic power.'** 

Yet, with his usual inconsistency, Aristotle represents God 
as self-conscious spirit. A rather mysterious spirit; for 
Aristotle’s God never does anything; he has no desires, no will, 
no purpose; he is activity so pure that he never acts. He is 
absolutely perfect; therefore he cannot desire anything; there¬ 
fore he does nothing. His only occupation is to contemplate 
the essence of things; and since he himself is the essence of all 
things, the form of all forms, his sole employment is the 
contemplation of himself.® Poor Aristotelian God!—he is a 
rot faineant, a do-nothing king; “the king reigns, but he does 
not rule.” No wonder the British like Aristotle; his God is ob¬ 
viously copied from their king. 

Or from Aristotle himself. Our philosopher so loved con¬ 
templation that he sacrificed to it his conception of divinity. 
His God is of the quiet Aristotelian type, nothing romantic, 
withdrawn to his ivory tower from the strife and stain of 
things; all the world away from the philosopher-kings of Plato, 
or from the stern flesh-and-blood reality of Yahveh, or the 
gentle and solicitous fatherhood of the Christian God. 

VI. PSYCHOLOGY AND THE NATURE OF ART 

Aristotle’s psychology is marred with similar obscurity and 
vacillation. There are many interesting passages: the power 
of habit is emphasized, and is for the first time called “second 
nature”; and the laws of association, though not developed, 
find here a definite formulation. But both the crucial prob¬ 
lems of philosophical psychology—^the freedom of the will and 
the immortality of the soul—are left in haze and doubt. 

Aristotle talks at times like a determinist— “We cannot di« 

-— - - . . 

^Ibid., xii, 8. 

2 Grant, 173. 

^Meta, xii, 8; Ethics^ Xt 8. 



ARISTOTLE 


83 


rectly will to be different from what we are”; but he goes on 
to argue, against determinism, that we can choose what we 
shall be, by choosing now the environment that shall mould us; 
so we are free in the sense that we mould our own characters 
by our choice of friends, books, occupations, and amusements.^ 
He does not anticipate the determinisms ready reply that these 
formative choices are themselves determined by our antecedent 
character, and this at last by unchosen heredity and early en¬ 
vironment. He presses the point that our persistent use of 
praise and blame presupposes moral responsibility and free 
will; it does not occur to him that the determinist might reach 
from the same premisses a precisely opposite conclusion—that 
praise and blame are given that they may be part of the 
factors determining subsequent action.^ 

Aristotle’s theory of the soul begins with an interesting 
definition. The soul is the entire vital principle of any or¬ 
ganism, the sum of its powers and processes. In plants the 
soul is merely a nutritive and reproductive power; in animals 
it is also a sensitive and locomotor power; in man it is as 
Well the power of reason and thought.- The soul, as the 
sum of the powers of the body, cannot exist without it; the 
two are as form and wax, separable only in thought, but in 
reality one organic whole; the soul is not put into the body like 
the quick-silver inserted by Daedalus into the images of 
Venus to make ‘^stand-ups” of them. A personal and partic¬ 
ular soul can exist only in its own bod}". Nevertheless the 
soul is not material, as Democritus would have it; nor does it 
all die. Part of tlie rational power of the human soul is 
passive: it is bound up with memory, and dies with the body 
that bore the memory; but the ““active reason,” the pure 
power of thought, is independent of memory and is untouched 
with decay. The active reason is the universal as distin¬ 
guished from the individual element in man; what survives 
is not the personality, with its transitory affections and de- 

1 Ethics, iii, 7. 

2 De Anima^ 



84 


THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 


sires, but mind in its most abstract and impersonal form.^ 
In short, Aristotle destroys the soul in order to give it im¬ 
mortality ; the immortal soul is ‘‘pure thought,” undefiled with 
reality, just as Aristotle’s God is pure activity, undefiled 
with action. Let him who can, be comforted with this 
theology. One wonders sometimes whether this metaphysical 
eating of one’s cake and keeping it is not Aristotle’s subtle 
!K’ay of saving himself from anti-Macedonian hemlock.? 

In a safer field of psychology he writes more originally and 
to the point, and almost creates the study of esthetics, the 
theory of beauty and art. Artistic creation, says Aristotle, 
springs from the formative impulse and the craving for emo¬ 
tional expression. Essentially the form of art is an imitation 
of reality; it holds the mirror up to nature.^ There is in 
man a pleasure in imitation, apparently missing in lowei 
animals. Yet the aim of art is to represent not the outward 
appearance of things, but their inward significance; for this, 
and not the external mannerism and detail, is their reality. 
There may be more human verity in the sternly classic modera¬ 
tion of the (Edipus Rex than in all the realistic tears of the 
Trojan Women. 

The noblest art appeals to the intellect as well as to the 
feelings (as a symphony appeals to us not only by its har¬ 
monies and sequences but by its structure and development) ; 
and this intellectual pleasure is the highest form of joy to 
which a man can rise. Hence a work of art should aim at 
form, and above all at unity, which is the backbone of struc¬ 
ture and the focus of form. A drama, c. g., should have 
unity of action: there should be no confusing sub-plots, nor 
any digressive episodes.^ But above all, the function of art 
is catharsis, purification: emotions accumulated in us under 
the pressure of social restraints, and liable to sudden issue 

1 2)0 Anima, ii, 4; i, 4; iii, 5. 

^Poetics, i, 1447. 

8 Aristotle gives only one sentence to unity of time; and does not mention 
unity of place; so that the “tliree unities” commonly foisted upon him are later 
inventions (Norwood, Greek Tragedy, p. 42, note). 



ARISTOTLE 


85* 


in unsocial and destructive action, are touched off and sluiced 
away in the harmless form of theatrical excitement; so tragedy, 
‘through pity and fear, effects the proper purgation of these 
emotions.” ^ Aristotle misses certain features of tragedy 
(e. g., the conflict of principles and personalities) ; but in this 
theory of catharsis he has made a suggestion endlessly fertile 
in the understanding of the almost mystic power of art. It 
is an illuminating instance of his ability to enter every field of 
speculation, and to adorn whatever he touches. 

VII. ETHICS AND THE NATURE OF HAPPINESS 

And yet, as Aristotle developed, and young men crowded 
about him to be taught and formed, more and more his mind 
turned from the details of science to the larger and vaguer 
problems of conduct and character. It came to him mor^ 
clearly that above all questions of the physical world there 
loomed the question of questions—what is the best life.^—• 
what is life’s supreme good.?—^what is virtue.?—how shall we 
find happiness and fulfilment.? 

He is realistically simple in his ethics. His scientific train¬ 
ing keeps him from the preachment of superhuman ideals 
and empty counsels of perfection. “In Aristotle,” says 
Santayana, “the conception of human nature is perfectly 
sound; every ideal has a natural basis, and everything natural 
has an ideal development.” Aristotle begins by frankly 
recognizing that the aim of life is not goodness for its own 
sake, but happiness. “For we choose happiness for itself, 
and never with a view to anything further; whereas we choose 
honor, pleasure, intellect . . . because we believe that through 
them we shall be made happy.” - But he realizes that to call 
happiness the supreme good is a mere truism; what is wanted 
is some clearer account of the nature of happiness, and the 
way to it. He hopes to find this way by asking wherein man 

'^Poetics, vi, 1A49. 

^Ethics. U T. 



86 


THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 


differs from other beings; and by presuming that man’s hap¬ 
piness will lie in the full functioning of this specifically human 
quality. Now the peculiar excellence of man is his power 
of thought; it is by this that he surpasses and rules all other 
forms of life; and as the growth of this faculty has given 
him his supremacy, so, we may presume, its development will 
give him fulfilment and happiness. 

The chief condition of happiness, then, barring certain 
physical pre-requisites, is the life of reason—the specific glory 
and power of man. Virtue, or rather excellence,^ will depend 
on clear judgment, self-control, symmetry of desire, artistry 
of means; it is not the possession of the simple man, nor the 
gift of innocent intent, but the achievement of experience in 
the fully developed man. Yet there is a road to it, a guide 
to excellence, which may save many detours and delays: it is 
the middle way, the golden mean. The qualities of character 
can be arranged in triads, in each of which the first and last 
qualities will be extremes and vices, and the middle quality a 
virtue or an excellence. So between cowardice and rashness 
is courage; between stinginess and extravagance is liberality; 
between sloth and greed is ambition; between humility and 
pride is modesty; between secrecy and loquacity, honest}'; be¬ 
tween moroseness and buffoonery, good humor; between 
quarrelsomeness and flattery, friendship; between Hamlet’s 
indecisiveness and Quixote’s impulsiveness is self-control.^ 
“Right,” then, in ethics or conduct, is not different from 
“right” in mathematics or engineering; it means correct, fit, 
what works best to the best result. 

The golden mean, however, is not, like the mathematical 
mean, an exact average of two precisely calculable extremes; 

1 The word excellence is probably the fittest translation of the Greek arete, 
usually mistranslated virtue. The reader will avoid misunderstanding Plato 
and Aristotle if, where translators write virtue, he will substitute excellence, 
ability, or capacity. The Greek arete is the Roman virtue; both imply a 
masculine sort of excellence {Ares, god of war; vir, a male). Classical an¬ 
tiquity conceived virtue in terms of man, just as medieval Christianity con¬ 
ceived it in terms of woman. 

• Ethics, J, 7 



ARISTOTLE 


87 


it fluctuates with the collateral circumstances of each situa¬ 
tion, and discovers itself only to mature and flexible reason. 
Excellence is an art won by training and habituation: we do 
not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we 
rather have these because we have acted rightly; ‘Hhese virtues 
are formed in man by his doing tlie actions”; ^ we are what we 
repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit: 
‘‘the good of man is a working of the soul in the way of 
excellence in a complete life; . . . for as it is not one swal¬ 
low or one fine day tlmt makes a spring, so it is not one day 
or a short time that makes a man blessed and happy.” - 

Youth is the age of extremes: “if the young commit a 
fault it is always on the side of excess and exaggeration.” 
The great difficulty of youth (and of many of youth’s elders) 
is to get out of one extreme without falling into its opposite. 
For one extreme easily passes into the other, whether through 
“over-correction” or elsewise: insincerity doth protest too 
much, and humility hovers on the precipice of conceit.® 
Those who are consciously at one extreme will give the name 
of virtue not to the mean but to the opposite extreme. Some¬ 
times this is well; for if we are conscious of erring in one 
extreme “we should aim at the other, and so we may reach the 
middle position, ... as men do in straightening bent 
timber.” ^ But unconscious extremists look upon the golden 
mean as the greatest vice; they “expel towards each other 
the man in the middle position; the brave man is called rash 
by the coward, and cowardly by the rash man, and in other 
cases accordingly”; ® so in modern politics the “liberal” is 
called “conservative” and “radical” by the radical and the 
conservative. 

It is obvious that this doctrine of the mean is the formula- 

1 Ethics, ii, 4. 

2 Ibid,, i, 7. 

8 “The vanity of Antisthenes” the Cynic, said Plato, “peeps out through the 
holes in his cloak.” 

^Ethics, ii, 9. 

• il 8. 



88 


THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 


lion of a characteristic attitude whicli appears in almost every 
system of Greek pliilosopliy. Plato had had it in mind when 
he called virtue harmonious action; Socrates when he identified 
virtue witli knowledge. The Seven Wise Men had established 
the tradition by engraving, on the temple of Apollo at Delphi, 
the motto incdcn agan ,—nothing in excess. Perhaps, as 
Nietzsche claims,^ all these were attempts of the Greeks to 
check their own violence and impulsiveness of character; more 
truly, tliey reflected the Greek feeling that passions are not 
of themselves vices, but the raw material of both vice and 
virtue, according as they function in excess and dispropor¬ 
tion, or in measure and harmony.- 

But the golden mean, sa 3 "s our matter-of-fact philosopher, 
is not all of the secret of happiness. We must have, too, a 
fair degree of worldly goods: poverty makes one stingy and 
grasping; while possessions give one that freedom from care 
and greed which is the source of aristocratic ease and charm. 
The noblest of these external aids to happiness is friendship. 
Indeed, friendship is more necessary to the happy tlian to 
the unhappy; for happiness is multiplied by being shared. 
It is more important than justice: for ^Vhen men are friends, 
justice is unnecessary; but when men are just, friendship is 
still a boon.’’ ‘‘A friend is one soul in tw^o bodies.” Yet 
friendship implies few friends rather than many; “he who 
has many friends has no friend”; and “to be a friend to many 
people in the way of perfect friendship is impossible.” Fine 
friendship requires duration ratlier than fitful intensity; and 
this implies stability of character; it is to altered character 
that we must attribute the dissolving kaleidoscope of friend¬ 
ship. And friendship requires equality; for gratitude gives 
it at best a slippery basis. “Benefactors are commonly held 

1 The Birth of Tragedy. 

2 Cf. a socioloj^ical formulation of the same idea: “Values are never abso¬ 
lute, but only relative. ... A certain quality in human nature is deemed to 
be less abundant than it ought to be; therefore we place a value upon it, 
and . . . encourage and cultivate it. As a result of this valuation we call it 
a virtue; but if the same quality should become superabundant we should call 
it a vice and try to repress it.”—Carver, Essays in Social Justice, 



ARISTOTLE 


89 


to have more friendship for the objects of their kindness than 
these for them. The account of the matter wliicli satisfies 
most persons is that the one are debtors and the others 
creditors, . . . and that the debtors wish their creditors out 
of the way, while the creditors are anxious that their debtors 
should be preserved.” Aristotle rejects this interpretation; 
he prefers to believe that the greater tenderness oi the bene¬ 
factor is to be explained on the analogy of the artist’s affection 
for his work, or the mother’s for her child. We love that 
which we have made.^ 

And yet, though external goods and relationships are 
necessary to happiness, its essence remains within us, in 
rounded knowledge and clarity of soul. Surely sense pleasure 
is not the way: that road is a circle: as Socrates phrased 
the coarser Epicurean idea, we scratch that we may itch, and 
itch that we may scratch. Nor can a political career be the 
way; for therein we walk subject to the whims of the people; 
and nothing is so fickle as the crowd. No, happiness must 
be a pleasure of the mind; and we may trust it only when it 
comes from the pursuit or the capture of truth. “The opera¬ 
tion of the intellect . . . aims at no end beyond itself, and finds 
in itself the pleasure which stimulates it to further operation; 
and since the attributes of self-sufficiency, unweariedness, and 
capacity for rest, . . . plainly belong to this occupation, in 
it must lie perfect happiness.” - 

Aristotle’s ideal man, however, is no mere metaphysician. 

He does not expose himself needlessly to danger, since 
there are few things for which he cares sufficiently; but he is 
willing, in great crises, to give even his life,—knowing that 
under certain conditions it is not worth while to live. He is 
of a disposition to do men service, though he is ashamed to 
have a service done to him. To confer a kindness is a mark 
of superiority; to receive one is a mark of subordina¬ 
tion . . . He does not take part in public displays . . • 

1 Ethics, viii and ix. 

X, 7. 



90 THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 

He is open in his dislikes and preferences; he talks and acts 
frankly, because of his contempt for men and things . . • 
He is never fired with admiration, since there is nothing 
great in his eyes. He cannot live in complaisance with 
others, except it be a friend; complaisance is the charac¬ 
teristic of a slave. . . . He never feels malice, and always 
forgets and passes over injuries. . . . He is not fond of 
talking. ... It is no concern of his that he should be 
praised, or that others should be blamed. He does not 
speak evil of others, even of his enemies, unless it be to 
themselves. His carriage is sedate, his voice deep, his speech 
measured; he is not given to hurry, for he is concerned 
about only a few things; he is not prone to vehemence, 
for he thinks nothing very important. A shrill voice and 
hasty steps come to a man through care. . . . He bears 
the accidents of life with dignity and grace, making the best 
of his circumstances, like a skilful general who marshals his 
limited forces with all the strategy of war. . . . He is his 
own best friend, and takes delight in privacy whereas the 
man of no virtue or ability is his own worst enemy, and is 
afraid of solitude,^ 

Such is the Superman of Aristotle. 

VIII. POLITICS 

J. Communism and Conscrvatism> 

From so aristocratic an ethic there naturally follows (or was 
Ihe sequence the other way?) a severely aristocratic political 
philosophy. It was not to be expected that the tutor of an 
emperor and the husband of a princess would have any exag¬ 
gerated attachment to the common people, or even to the 
mercantile bourgeoisie; our philosophy is where our treasure 
lies. But further, Aristotle was honestly conservative be¬ 
cause of the turmoil and disaster that had come out of 
Athenian democracy; like a typical scholar he longed for 
order, security, and peace; this, he felt, was no time for 


1 Ethics, iv, 3. 



ARISTOTLE 


91 


political extravaganzas. Radicalism is a luxury of stability; 
we may dare to change things only when things lie steady 
under our hands. And in general, says Aristotle, ‘^the habit 
of lightly changing the laws is an evil; and when the advantage 
of change is small, some defects whether in the law or in the 
ruler had better be met with philosophic toleration. The 
citizen will gain less by the change than he will lose by ac¬ 
quiring the habit of disobedience.” ^ The power of the law 
to secure observance, and therefore to maintain political 
stability, rests very largely on custom; and “to pass liglitly 
from old laws to new ones is a certain means of weakening 
the inmost essence of all law whatever.” - “Let us not dis¬ 
regard the experience of ages: surely, in the multitude of 
years, these things, if they were good, would not have re¬ 
mained unknown.” ^ 

“These things,” of course, means chiefly Plato’s commu¬ 
nistic republic. Aristotle fights the realism of Plato about 
universals, and the idealism of Plato about government. He 
finds many dark spots in the picture painted by the Master. 
He docs not relish the barrack-like continuity of contact to 
which Plato apparently condemned his guardian philosophers; 
conservative though he is, Aristotle values iiKlividual quality, 
privacy, and liberty above social efficiency and power. He 
would not care to call every contemporary brother or sister, 
nor every elder person father or mother; if all are your 
brothers, none is; and “how much better it is to be the real 
cousin of somebody than to be a son after Plato’s fashion!” ^ 
In a state having women and children in common, “love will 
be watery. . . Of the two qualities which chiefly inspire regard 
and affection—that a thing is your own, and that it awakens 
real love in you—neither can exist in such a state” as Plato’s.® 
Perhaps there was, in the dim past, a communistic society, 

1 Politics, ii, 8. 

2 Ibid., V. 8. 

ii, 5. 

*Ibid., ii, 3. 

^ Ibid., U, 4. 



92 THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 

when the family was the only state, and pasturage or simple 
tillage the only form of life. But ‘‘in a more divided state 
of society,” where the division of labor into unequally im¬ 
portant functions elicits and enlarges the natural inequality of 
men, communism breaks down because it provides no adequate 
incentive for the exertion of superior abilities. The stimulus 
of gain is necessary to arduous work; and the stimulus of 
ownership is necessary to proper industry, husbandry and 
care. When everybody owns everything nobody will take 
care of anything. “That w^hicli is common to the greatest 
number has the least attention bestowed upon it. Everyone 
thinks chiefly of his own, hardly ever of the public, inter¬ 
est.” ^ And “there is always a difficulty in living together, or 
having things in common, but especially in having common 
property. The partnerships of fellow-travellers” (to say 
nothing of the arduous communism of marriage), “are an 
example to the point; for they generally fall out by the way, 
and quarrel about any trifle that turns up.” ^ 

“Men readily listen” to Utopias, “and are easily induced to 
believe that in some wonderful manner everybody will become 
everybody’s friend, especially when some one is heard de¬ 
nouncing the evils now existing, . . . which are said to arise 
out of the possession of private property. These evils, how¬ 
ever, arise from quite another source—the wickedness of human 
nature.” ^ Political science does not make men, but must take 
them as they come from nature.” ^ 

And human nature, the human average, is nearer to the 
beast than to the god. The great majority of men are natural 
dunces and sluggards; in any system whatever these men will 
sink to the bottom; and to help them with state subsidies is 

^Politics, ii, 3. 

^ Ibid,, ii, 5. 

^Ihid. Note that conservatives are pessimists, and radicals are opti¬ 
mists, about human nature, which is probably neither so good nor so bad as 
they would like to believe, and may be not so much nature as early training 
and environment. 

4/btU, i, 10. 



ARISTOTLE 


93 


*‘like pouring water into a leaking cask.” Such people must 
be ruled in politics and directed in industry; with their consent 
if possible, without it if necessary. “From the hour of their 
birth some are marked out for subjection, and others for com¬ 
mand.” ^ “For he who can foresee with his mind is by nature 
intended to be lord and master; and he who can work only 
with his body is by nature a slave.” ~ The slave is to the 
master wliat the body is to the mind; and as the body should 
be subject to the mind, so “it is better for all inferiors that 
they should be under the rule of a master.” * “The slave is 
a tool with life in it, the tool is a lifeless slave.” And then 
our hard-hearted philosopher, with a glimmer of possibilities 
which the Industrial Revolution has opened to our hands, 
writes for a moment with wistful hope: “If every instrument 
would accomplish its own work, obeying or anticipating the 
will of others, ... if the shuttle would weave, or the plectrum 
touch tlie lyre, without a hand to guide them, then chief work¬ 
men would not need assistants, nor masters slaves.” ^ 

This philosophy typifies the Greek disdain for manual labor. 
Such work in Athens had not become so complicated as it is 
today, when the intelligence demanded in many manual trades 
is at times much greater than that required for the operations 
of the lower middle class, and even a college professor may 
look upon an automobile mechanic (in certain exigencies) as 
a very god; manual work was then merely manual, and 
Aristotle looked down upon it, from the heights of philo-sophy, 
as belonging to men without minds, as only fit for slaves, and 
only fitting men for slavery. iVIanual labor, he believes, 
dulls and deteriorates the mind, and leaves neither time nor 
energy for political intelligence; it seems to Aristotle a rea- 

1 Ibid., i, 5. 

^Ibid., i, 2. Perhaps slave is too harsh a rendorinp: of doulos; the word 
was merely a frank recognition of a brutal fact which in our day is perfumed 
with talk about the dignity of labor and the brotherhood of man. We easily 
excel the ancients in making phrases. 

8/6id., i, 5. 

^ibid,, i, 4. 



94 


THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 


sonable corollary that only persons of some leisure should 
have a voice in government.^ ‘‘The best form of state will 
not admit mechanics to citizenship. . . . At Thebes there was 
a law that no man could hold office who had not retired from 
business ten years before.” ^ Even merchants and financiers 
are classed by Aristotle among slaves. “Retail trade is un¬ 
natural, . . . and a mode by which men gain from one an¬ 
other. The most hated sort of such exchange is . . . usury, 
which makes a gain out of money itself, and not from its 
natural use. For money was intended as an instrument of 
exchange, and not as the mother of interest. This usury 
(tokos)^ which means the birth of money from money, . . . 
is of all modes of gain the most unnatural.” ^ Money should 
not breed. Hence “the discussion of the theory of finance is 
not unworthy of philosophy; but to be engaged in finance, 
or in money-making, is unworthy of a free man.” ^ 


2. Marriage and Education 

Woman is to man as the slave to the master, the manual to 
the mental worker, the barbarian to the Greek. Woman is an 
unfinished man, left standing on a lower step in the scale of 
development.® The male is by nature superior, and the female 
inferior; the one rules and the other is ruled; and this prin¬ 
ciple extends, of necessity, to all mankind.” Woman is weak 
of will, and therefore incapable of independence of character 

^Politics, iii, S; vii, 8, 

^Ibid.f iii, 5. 

9 Ibid,, i, 10. This view influenced the medieval proliibition of interest. 

^Ibid.f 1, 11. Aristotle adds that philosophers could succeed in such fields 
if they cared to descend into them; and he proudly points to Thales, who, fore¬ 
seeing a good harvest, bought up all the reapers in his city, and then, at 
harvest time, sold them at his own sweet price; whereupon Aristotle observes 
that the universal secret of great riches is the creation of a mono])oly. 

5 Da Gen, Animalium, ii, 3; IlUt. Animalium, viii, 1; Pol., i, 5. Cf. Wein- 
inger; and Meredith’s “Woman will be the last thing civilized by man” 
{Ordeal of Richard Feverel, p. 1). It appears, however, that man was (or 
will be) the last thing civilized by woman; for the great civilizing agencies are 
tlie family and a settled economic life; and both of these are the creations of 
woman. 



ARISTOTLE 


9& 

or position; her best condition is a quiet home life in which, 
while ruled by the man in her external relations, she may be 
m domestic affairs supreme. Women sliould not be made more 
like men, as in Plato’s republic; rather the dissimilarity should 
be increased; nothing is so attractive as the different. ^‘The 
courage of a man and that of a woman are not, as Socrates 
supposed, the same: the courage of a man is shown in com¬ 
manding; that of a woman in obeying. ... As the poet says, 
‘Silence is a woman’s glory.’ ” ^ 

Aristotle seems to suspect that this ideal enslavement of 
woman is a rare achievement for man, and that as often as 
not the sceptre is wdth the tongue rather than with the arm. 
As if to give the male an indispensable advantage, he advises 
him to defer marriage till the vicinity of thlrty^seven, and 
then to marry a lass of some twenty years. A girl who is 
rounding the twenties is usually the equal of a man of thirty, 
but may perhaps be managed by a seasoned warrior of thirty- 
seven. What attracts Aristotle to this matrimonial mathe¬ 
matics is the consideration that two such disparate persons 
will lose their reproductive powder and passions at approxi¬ 
mately the same time. “If the man is still able to beget 
children while the woman is unable to bear them, or vice versa^ 
quarrels and differences will arise. . . . Since the lime of gen¬ 
eration is commonly limited within the age of seventy years 
in the man, and fifty in the woman, the commencement of their 
union should conform to these periods. The union of male 
and female when too young is bad for the creation of chil¬ 
dren ; in all animals the off-spring of the young are small and 
ill-developed, and generally female.” Health is more import¬ 
ant than love. Further, “it conduces to temperance not to 
marry too soon; for w^oinen w^ho marry early are apt to be 
wanton; and in men too the bodily frame is stunted if they 
marry w hile they are growing.” “ These matters should not 

1 Politics, i, 13. 

^ Ibid., vii, 16. It is apparent that Aristotle has in mind only the tem¬ 
perance of women; the moral effect of deferred marriage upon men does not 
seem to agitate him. 



96 


THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 


be left to youthful caprice, they should be under state super¬ 
vision and control: tlie state sliould determine the minimum 
and maximum ages of marriage for each sex, the best seasons 
for conception, and the rate of increase in population. If 
the natural rate of increase is too high, tlic cruel practice of 
infanticide may be replaced by abortion; and ‘Met abortion 
be procured before sense and life have begun.” ^ There is an 
ideal number of population for every state, varying with its 
position and resources. “A state when composed of too few 
is not, as a state should be, self-sufficing; while if it has too 
many ... it becomes a nation and not a state, and is al¬ 
most incapable of constitutional government,” or of ethnic 
or political unity.- Anything in excess of a j)opulation of 
10,000 is undesirable. 

Education, too, should be in the hands of the state. “That 
which most contributes to the permanence of constitutions is 
the adaptation of education to the form of government. . . . 
The citizen should be moulded to the form of government un¬ 
der which ho lives.” ^ By state control of schools we might 
divert men from industry and trade to agriculture; and we 
might train men, while keeping property private, to open their 
possessions to discrirninately common use. “Among good 
men, with respect to the use of property, the proverb will hold, 
that ‘friends should have all things in common.’ ” But 
above all, the growing citizen must be taught obedience to 
law, else a state is impossible. ‘Tt has been well said that ‘he 
who has never learned to obey cannot be a good commander.’ 
. . . The good citizen should be capable of both.” And onl}’' 
a state system of schools can achieve social unity amid ethnic 
heterogeneity; the state is a plurality which must be made into 
a unity and a community by education.*’^ I.ct youth be taught, 
too, the great boon it has in the state, the unappreciated 

^Politics, vii, 16. 

^IhUL, vii, 4. 

9 Ibid., V, 9; viii, 1. 

^Ibid,, vi, 4; ii, 5, 

^Ibid., iii, 4; U, 5. 



ARISTOTLE 


97 


cnrlty wliicli comes of social organization, the freedom tliat 
comes of law. “Man, wlien jierfected, is the best of animals; 
but when isolated he is the worst of all; for injustice is more 
dangerous when armed, and man is equijijied at birth \nth 
the weajion of intelligence, and with qualities of character 
which he may use for the vilest ends. Wherefore if he have 
not virtue he is the most unholy and savage of animals, full 
of glutton}^ and lust.’’ And only social control can give him 
virtue. Through speech man evolved societ\'; through soci¬ 
ety, intelligence; through intelligence, order; and through or¬ 
der, civilization. In such an ordered state the individual has 
a thousand opportunities and avenues of development open 
to him which a solitary life would never give. “To live alone,” 
then, “one must be either an animal or a god.” ^ 

Hence revolution is almost always unwise; it ma}" achieve 
some good, but at the cost of many evils, the chief of >\hich 
is the disturbance, and perhaps the dissolution, of that social 
order and structure on which every ])olitica! good depends. 
The direct consequences of revolutionary innovations may be 
calculable and salutary; but the indirect arc generally incal¬ 
culable, and not seldom disastrous. “They who take only a 
few j)oints into account find it easy to ])ronounce judgment”; 
and a man can make up his mind (piickly if he has only a 
little to make up. “Young men are easily deceived, for they 
arc quick to hope.” The sup])ression of long-established hab¬ 
its brings the overthrow of innovating governments because 
the old habits persist among the ])eojde; characters are not 
so easily changed as laws. If a constitution is to be perma¬ 
nent, all the parts of a society must desire it to be maintained. 
Therefore a ruler who would avoid revolution should prevent 
extremes of ])ovcrty and wealth,—“a condition >\hich is most 
often the result of war”; he should (like the Ihiglish) encour¬ 
age colonization as an outlet for a dangerously congested 
population; and he should foster and practice religion. An 

1 Politics, i, 2. “Or,” adds Xictzsrhc, who takes nearly all of his political 

philosophy from Aristotle, “one must be both that i*^, a pliilosopher.” 



98 


THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 


autocratic ruler particularly “should appear to be earnest in 
the worship of the gods; for if men tliink that a ruler is re¬ 
ligious and reveres the gods, they are less afraid of suffering 
injustice at his hands, and are less disposed to conspire against 
him, since they believe that the gods themselves are fighting 
on his side.” ^ 


3. Democracy and Aristocracy 

With such safeguards in religion, in education, and in the 
ordering of family life, almost any of the traditional forms of 
government will serve. All forms have good and bad com¬ 
mingled in them, and are severallv adaj)tcd to various condi¬ 
tions. Theoretically, the ideal form of government would be 
the centralization of all political ])ower in tlie one best man. 
Homer is right: “Rad is the lordshij) of many; let one be 
your ruler and master.” For such a man law would be ratlicr 
an instrument than a limit: “for men of eminent ability there 
is no law—they are themselves a law. Anyone would be ridic¬ 
ulous who should attempt to make laws for them; they would 
probably retort what, in the fable of Antistlienes, the lions 
said to the hares when, in the council of beasts, the latter began 
haranguing and claiming equality for all— “Where arc your 

claws?” 2 

But in practice, monarchy is usually the worst form of gov¬ 
ernment, for great strength and great virtue are not near 
allied. Hence the best j)racticable ])olity is aristocracy, the 
rule of the informed and capable few. (ioverninent is too com¬ 
plex a thing to have its issues decided l)y number, when lesser 
issues are reserved for knowledge and ability. “As the physi¬ 
cian ought to be judged by the physician, so ought men in 
general to be judged by their peers. . . . Now does not this 
same principle apply to elections.^ For a right election can 

^Politics, iv, 5; ii, 9; v, 7; H, 11. 

^ Ibid., iii, IS. Aristotle probably had Alt xander or Pliillp in mind while 
writing this passage, just as Xietzsehc seems to have been infUieiieed towards 
similar conclusions by the alluring careers of Bismarck and Napoleon. 



ARISTOTI.E 


99 


only be made by those who liave hnowledf^e: a geometrician, 
e. g., will choose rightly in matters of geometry; or a pilot in 
matters of navigation. . . So that neither the election of 
magistrates nor the calling of them to account should be en¬ 
trusted to the many.” 

The difficulty with hereditary aristocracy is that it has no 
permanent economic base; the eternal recurrence of the nou- 
veaux riches puts political office sooner or later at the disj)Osal 
of the highest bidder. ‘Tt is surely a bad thing that the 
greatest offices . . . should be bought. Tlie law which per¬ 
mits this abuse makes wealth of more account than ability, and 
the whole state becomes avaricious. For whenever the chiefs 
of the state deem anything honorable, the other citizens are 
sure to follow their examjde” (the ‘‘])rcstige imitation” of 
modern social psychology) ; ‘‘and where ability has not the 
first place there is no real aristocracy.” ^ 

Democracy is usually the result of a revolution against 
plutocracy". ‘T.ove of gain in the ruling classes tends con¬ 
stantly to diminish their number” (Alarx's ‘‘elimination of the 
middle class”), “and so to strengthen tlie masses, who in the 
end set upon their masters and establisli democracies.” This 
“rule by the ])oor” has some advantages. “The peo])le, 
though individually they may be worse judges than those wlio 
have s])ecial knowledge, are collectively as good. Moreover, 
there are some artists whose works are best judged not by 
themselves alone, but by those who do not possess the art; 
e. g., the user or master of a house will be a better judge of 
it than the builder; . . . and the guest will be a better judge 
of a feast than the cook.” ^ And “the many are more incor¬ 
ruptible than the few; they arc like the greater quantity of 
water which is less easily spoiled than a little. The individual 
is liable to be overcome by anger, or by some other passion, 

^Politics, \ij, 11. Cf. the modern argument for “occupational representa¬ 
tion.” 

i!//>!</.. ii, 11. 

iii, 15, B. 11. 



100 THE STORY OF PHILOSOrilY 

and then his judgment is necessarilj’^ perverted; but it is hardly 
to be supposed that a great number of persons would all get 
into a passion and go wrong at the same moment.’’ ^ 

Yet democracy is on the whole inferior to aristocracy.- For 
it is based on a false assumption of cfiuality; it ‘‘arises out of 
the notion that those who are equal in one respect (c. g., in 
respect of the law) are equal in all respects; because men are 
equally free they claim to be absolutely ecpial.” The upshot 
is that ability is sacrificed to number, while numbers are ma¬ 
nipulated by trickery. Because the jieople are so easily 
misled, and so fickle in their views, the ballot should be limited 
to the intelligent. What we need is a combination of aristoc¬ 
racy and democracy. 

Constitutional government offers this happy union. It is 
not the best conceivable government—that would be an aris¬ 
tocracy of education—but it is the best possible state. “We 
must ask what is the best constitution for most states, and the 
best life for most men; neither assuming a standard of excel¬ 
lence which will be above ordinarj’^ persons, nor an education 
exceptionally favored by nature or circumstance, nor yet an 
ideal state which will be only an aspiration; but having in 
mind such a life as the majority will be able to share, and a 
form of government to which states in general can attain.” 
“It is necessary to begin by assuming a principle of general 
application, namely, that that part of the state which desirey 
the continuance of the government must be stronger than that 
which docs not”; ^ and strength consists neither in number 
alone, nor in property alone, nor in military or political ability 
alone, but in a combination of these, so that regard has to be 
taken of “freedom, wealth, culture and noble birth, as well as 
of mere numerical superiority.” Now where shall we find such 

1 Politics^ iii, 15. Tarek, Lc Bon and other social psycholoj^ists assert pre¬ 
cisely the contrary; and though they exaggerate the vices of the crowd, they 
might find better support than Aristotle in the behavior of the Athenian As¬ 
sembly 430-330 B. c. 

2 Ibid., ii, 9. 

3/6iJ., iv, 11, 10. 



ARISTOTLE 


101 


ftn economic majority to support our constitutional fjovcrn- 
mcnt? Perhaps best in the middle class: here again we have 
the golden mean, just as constitutional government itself would 
be a mean between democracy and aristocracy. Our state will 
be sufficiently democratic if the road to every office is open to 
all; and sufficiently aristocratic if the offices themselves are 
closed except to those who have traveled the road and arrived 
fully prepared. From whatever angle we a])y)roach our 
eternal political problem we monotonously reacli the same con¬ 
clusion: that the community should determine the ends to be 
pursued, but that only ex[)crts should select and «'.pply the 
means; tliat choice sliould be democratically sj)rea(l, but that 
office should be rigidly reserved for the equipped and win¬ 
nowed best. 


IX. crtticism 

What shall we say of this j3hilosophy? Perliaps nothing 
rapturous. It is dilliciilt to be cntliusiastic about Aristotle, 
because it was difficult for him to be enthusiastic about any¬ 
thing; and si vis me fiere, primnm tihi jlcndum} Ilis motto 
is nil adinirnri —to admire or marvel at nothing; and we hesi¬ 
tate to violate his motto in his case. We miss in him the re¬ 
forming zeal of Plato, the angry love of humanity which made 
the great idealist denounce his fellow-men. We miss tlic dar¬ 
ing originality of his teaclier, the lofty imagination, the 
capacity for generous delusion. And yet, after reading Plato, 
nothing could be so salutary for us as Aristotle\s scej)tic calm. 

Let us summarize our disagreement. We are bothered, at 
the outset, with his insistence on logic. He thinks the syl¬ 
logism a description of man’s way of reasoning, wliereas it 
merely describes man’s way of dressing up his reasoning for 
the j)ersuasion of another mind; he supposes that thought 
begins with premisses and seeks their conclusions, when 
actually thought begins with hypothetical conclusions and 

1 “If you wish me to weep you must weep first”-*IIoraoe (Ars Poetica) to 
actors and writers. 



102 THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 

seeks their justifying premisses,—and seeks them best by 
the observation of particular events under tlie controlled 
and isolated conditions of experiment. Yet how foolish we 
should be to forget that two thousand years have changed 
merely the incidentals of Aristotle's logic, that Occam and 
Bacon and Whewell and IMill and a hundred others have but 
found spots in his sun, and that Aristotle’s creation of this 
new discipline of thought, and his firm establishment of its 
essential lines, remain among the lasting achievements of the 
human mind. 

It is again the absence of experiment and fruitful hypothe¬ 
sis that leaves Aristotle’s natural science a mass of undigested 
observations. His specialty is tlic collection and classifica¬ 
tion of data; in every field he wields his categories and producef/ 
catalogues. But side by side witli this bent and talent for 
observation goes a Platonic addiction to metaphysics; thi*? 
trips him up in every science, and inveigles him into the wihh 
est presuppositions. Here indeed was the great defect of the 
Greek mind: it was not disciplined; it lacked limiting and 
steadjdng traditions; it moved freely in an uncharted field, 
and ran too readily to theories and conclusions. So Greek 
philosophy leaped on to heights unreached again, while Greek 
science limped behind. Our modern danger is precisely op¬ 
posite; inductive data fall upon us from all sides like the 
lava of Vesuvius; we suffocate with uncoordinated facts; our 
minds are overwhelmed with sciences breeding and multiply¬ 
ing into specialistic chaos for want of synthetic thought and 
a unifying i)hilosophy. We are all mere fragments of what 
a man might be. 

Aristotle’s ethics is a branch of his logic: the ideal life is like 
a proper syllogism. He gives us a handbook of j)ropriety 
rather than a stimulus to improvement. An ancient critic 
spoke of him as “moderate to excess.” An extremist might 
call the Ethics the champion collection of platitudes in all 
literature; and an Anglophobe would be consoled with the 



ARISTOTLE 


103 


thought tliat Englishmen in llieir youtli liad done advance 
penance for the imperialistic sins of tlieir adult years, since 
both at Cambridge and at Oxford they had been compelled 
to read every word of the Nicomachean Ethics. We long 
to mingle fresh green Leaves of Grass with these drier pages, 
to add Whitman’s exhilarating justification of sense joy to 
Aristotle’s exaltation of a purely intellectual haj){)iness. We 
wonder if this Aristotelian ideal of immoderate rnoderaHon 
has had anything to do with the colorless virtue, the starched 
perfection, the expressionless good form, of the liritish aris¬ 
tocracy. Matthew Arnold tells us that in his time Oxford 
tutors looked upon the Ethics as infallible. For tlirce hun¬ 
dred years this book and the Politics ha\e formed the ruling 
British mind, perhaps to great and noble achievonicnts, but 
certainly to a hard and cold efliciencv. AVhat would the re¬ 
sult have been if the masters of the greatest of empires had 
been nurtured, instead, on the holy fervor and llie construc¬ 
tive ])assion of the Republic? 

After all, Aristotle was not quite Greek; he had been settled 
and formed before coming to Athens; tliere was nothing Athe¬ 
nian about him, nothing of the ha^^ty and ins])iriting experi- 
mentalism which made Athens throb with j)olitical elan and 
at last helped to subject her to a unifying des])ot. lie re¬ 
alized too completely the Delphic command to avoid excess: 
he is so anxious to ])are aw\ay extremes that at last nothing 
is left. lie is so fearful of disorder tliat he forgets to be fear¬ 
ful of slavery; he is so timid of uncertain change that he pre¬ 
fers a certain changelessness that near resemliles death. 
lacks that Ileraclitean sense of ilux which justifies the conserv¬ 
ative in believing that all permanent change is gradual, and 
justifies the radical in believing that no changelessness is 
permanent. He forgets that Plato’s communism was meant 
only for the elite, the unselfish and iingreedy few’; and he 
comes deviously to a Platonic result when he says tha^ though 
property sliould be private, its use should be as far as possible 



104 


THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 


common. He does not see (and perhaps he could not be ex¬ 
pected in his early day to see) that individual control of the 
means of production was stimulating and salutary only when 
these means were so simple as to be purchasable by any man; 
and that their increasing complcxit 3 " and cost lead to a dan¬ 
gerous centralization of ownership and power, and to an arti¬ 
ficial and finally disruptive incqualit 3 \ 

But after all, these are quite inessential criticisms of what 
remains the most marvelous and influential s\^stem of thought 
ever put together bv an\" single mind. It rnaj^ be doubted 
if any other thinker has contributed so much to the enlighten¬ 
ment of the world. Everj’^ later age has drawn upon Aristotle, 
and stood upon his slioulders to see the truth. The varied and 
magnificent culture of Alexandria found its scientific inspira 
tion in him. His Organon j)laved a central role in shaping 
the minds of the medieval barbarians into disciplined and con¬ 
sistent thought. The other works, translated by Nestorian 
Christians into Syriac in the fifth century a. d., and thence 
into Arabic and Hebrew in the tenth century, and tlience into 
Latin towards 1225, turned scholasticism from its eloquent 
beginnings in Abelard to encyclopedic completion in Thomas 
Aquinas. Tlie Crusaders brought back more accurate (ireek 
copies of the philosopher’s texts; and the Greek scholars of 
Constantinople brought further Aristotelian treasures with 
them when, after 1453, the}^ fled from the besieging Turks. 
The works of Aristotle came to be for Kuroi)ean ])hilosophy 
what the Bible was for theologj"—an almost infallible text, 
with solutions for e\er 3 ^ problem. In 1215 the Papal legate 
at Paris forbade teachers to lecture on his works; in 1231 
Gregor^^ IX appointed a commission to expurgate him; by 
1260 he was de rigucur in cverj’' Christian school, and ecclesi¬ 
astical assemblies penalized deviations from his views. Chau¬ 
cer describes his student as happy by having 

At his beddes hed 

Twenty bookes clothed in blake or red, 

Of Aristotle and his philosophic,: 



ARISTOTLE 


105 


and in the first circles of Hell, says Dante, 

I saw the Master there of those who know. 

Amid the ])hilosophic family, 

By all admired, and hy all reverenced; 

There Plato too I saw, and Socrates, 

Who stood beside him closer than the rest. 

Such lines give us some inkling of the honor whicli a thousand 
years offered to the Stagirite. Not till new iiistrurneiits, ac- 
ciiinulated observations, and patient experiments remade sci¬ 
ence and gave irresistible weapons to Occam and Ramus, to 
Roger and I'rancis Bacon, was the reign of Aristot^le ended. 
No other mind had for so long a time ruled the intellect of 
mankind. 


X. LATER LIFE AND DEATH 

iVIeanwhilc life had become unmanageably com])licatcd for 
our i)hilosopher. He found himself on the one hand embroiled 
with Alexander for ])rote.-5ting against the execution of Cal- 
listhenes (a nephew of Aristotle), who had refused to worship 
Alexander as a god; and Alexander had answered the protest 
by hinting that it was quite w ithin his omnipotence to })ut even 
philosophers to death. At the same time Aristotle was busy 
defending Alexander among the Athenians. He preferred 
Greek solidarity" to city patriotism, and thought culture and 
science would flourish better when petty sovereignties and dis¬ 
putes were ended; and he saw’ in Alexantler what Goethe was 
to see in Napoleon—the i)hilosophic unity of a chaotic and 
intolerably manifold world. The Athenians, hungering for 
liberty, growled at Aristotle, and became bitter when Alexan¬ 
der had a statue of the philosopher put up in the heart of 
the hostile city. In this turmoil we get an impression of 
Aristotle quite contrary to that left upon us by his Kt]iics: 
here is a man not cold and inhumanly calm, but a fighter, 
})ursuing his Titanic work in a circle of enemies on every side. 
The successors of Plato at the Academy, the oratorical school 
of Isocrates, and the angry crowds that hung on Demosthenes^ 



106 THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 

acid eloquence, intrigued and clamored for his exile or h*a 
death. 

And then, suddenly (323 n. c.), Alexander died. Athens 
went wild with patriotic joy; the Macedonian party was over¬ 
thrown, and Athenian independence was proclaimed. Anti¬ 
pater, successor of Alexander and intimate friend of Aristotle, 
marched upon the rebellious city. Most of the Macedonian 
partj' fled. Eurymedon, a chief priest, brought in an indict¬ 
ment against Aristotle, charging him with having taught that 
prayer and sacrifice were of no avail. Aristotle saw himself 
fated to be tried by juries and crowds incomparably more 
hostile than those that had murdered Socrates. Very wisely, 
he left the city, saying that he would not give Athens a chance 
to sin a second time against philosophy. There was no cow¬ 
ardice in this; an accused person at Athens had always the 
option of preferring exile.' Arrived at Chalcis, Aristotle fell 
ill; Diogenes Laertius tells us that the old philosopher, in utter 
disappointment with the turn of all things against him, com¬ 
mitted suicide by drinking hemlock.- However induced, his 
illness proved fatal; and a few months after leaving Athens 
(322 B. c.) the lonely Aristotle died. 

In the same year, and at the same age, sixty-two, Demos¬ 
thenes, greatest of Alexander’s enemies, drank poison. 
Within twelve months Greece had lost her greatest ruler, her 
greatest orator, and her greatest philosopher. The glor}’ that 
had been Greece faded now' in the dawn of the Roman sun; 
and the grandeur that w as Rome was the jxmip of power rather 
than the light of thought. Then that grandeur too de¬ 
cayed, that little light went almost out. For a thousand years 
darkness brooded over the faee of Europe. All the world 
awaited the resurrection of philosophy. 

J Grote, 20. 

* Grote, 22; Zeller, i, 37 note. 



cirAPTKii in 


FRANCIS BACON 

I. FROM AUISTOTRK TO THE REXAISSANOE 

W HEN Sparta blockaded and deieated Athens to¬ 
wards the close of the fiftli century n. political 
supremacy passed from the mother of (ireek [)hilos- 
ophy and art, and the vigor and independence of the Athenian 
mind decayed. Wlieiu in ‘51)9 n. r., Socrates was ])ut to death, 
the soul of Athens died with iiim, lingering only in his ])roud 
pupil, Plato. And when Philip of Macedon defeated the 
Athenians at ClhTronea in 338 n. c., and Alexander burned tlK 
great city of Thebes to the ground three years later, e\ea 
the ostentatious sparing of Pindar's home could not cover u;> 
the fact that Athenian independence, in government and in 
thought, was irrevocably destroyed, d'he dominatiem of (ireek 
])hilosophy by the Macedonian Aristotle mirrored the ])oliti- 
cal subjection of (ireece by the \irile and younger peoples of 
the norili. 

The death of Alexander (323 n. c.} quickened this process 
of decay. The boy-emperor, barbarian tliougli lie remained 
after all of Aristotle's tutoring, had yet learned to revere the 
rich culture of (ireece, and had dreamed of spreading that 
culture through the Orient in the wake of his \ictorious ar¬ 
mies. Tlie development of (ireek cennmerce, and the multi]di- 
cation of (ireek trading ])osts throughout Asia Elinor, had 
provided an economic basis for the unification of this region 
as ])art of an Hellenic empire; and Alexander hoped that 
from these busy stations (Ireek thought, as ^\ell as (Ireek 
goods, would radiate and conquer. J5ut he had uraierrated 
the inertia and resistance of the Oriental mind, and the mass 



108 


THE STORY OF THILOSOPHY 


and depth of Oriental culture. It was only a youthful fancy, 
after all, to suppose that so immature and unstable a civiliza¬ 
tion as that of Greece could be imposed upon a civilization im¬ 
measurably more widespread, and rooted in the most venerable 
traditions. The quantity of Asia proved too much for the 
quality of Greece. Alexander himself, in the hour of his tri¬ 
umph, was conquered by the soul of the East; he married 
(among several ladies) the daughter of Darius; he adopted 
the Persian diadem and robe of state; he introduced into 
Europe the Oriental notion of the divine right of kings; and at 
last he astonished a sceptic Greece by announcing, in magnifi¬ 
cent Eastern style, that he was a god. (irecce laughed; and 
Alexander drank himself to death. 

This subtle infusion of an Asiatic soul into the wearied 
body of the master Greek was followed rapidly by the pour¬ 
ing of Oriental cults and faiths into (Jreece along thase very 
lines of communication which the young conqueror had opened 
up; the broken dykes let in the ocean of Eastern thought upon 
the lowlands of the still adolescent l iUropean mind. The mys¬ 
tic and superstitious faiths which had taken root among the 
poorer people of Hellas were reinforced and spread about; 
and the Oriental spirit of apathy and resignation found a 
ready soil in decadent and despondent Greece. The introduc¬ 
tion of the Stoic philosophy into Athens by the Phoenician 
merchant Zeno (about 310 n. c.) was but one of a multitudr 
of Oriental infiltrations. lioth Stoicism and Ejiicurcanism—■ 
the apathetic acceptance of defeat, and the effort to forget 
defeat in the arms of jileasure—were theories as to how one 
might yet be happy though subjugated or enslaved; precisely 
as the pessimistic Oriental stoicism of Schopenhauer and the 
despondent epicureanism of Renan were in the nineteenth cen¬ 
tury the symbols of a shattered Revolution and a broken 
France. 

Not that these natural antitheses of ethical theory were quite 
new to Greece. One finds tliem in the gloomy Heraclitus and 
the “laughing philosojiher” Democritus; and one secs the pu- 



FRANCIS BACON 


109 


pils of Socrates dividing into Cynics and Cyrenaics under the 
lead of Antisthenes and Aristippus, and extolling, the one 
school ai)athy, tlie otlier happiness. Yet tliesc were even then 
almost exotic modes of thought: imperial Atliens did not take 
to them. But when (ireece had seen Clix*ronea in hhjod and 
Thehes in ashes, it listened to I)i()^en(‘s; and when the ;;Io]y 
had departed from Athens she was rij)e for Zeno and Kpi- 
ciirus.^ 

Zeno built his philosophy of (ipathcla on a detei*minisin 
which a later Stoic, Clirysippus, found it hard to distinguish 
from Oriental fatalism. \Vhen Zeno, who did not believe in 
slavery, was heating his sla\e for some otVeiise, the slave 
pleaded, in mitigation, that by his master’s ])hilosopliy he had 
been destined from all eternity to ccjinmit this fault; to which 
Zeno re[)lied, with the calm of a sa^j^e, that on the same philos¬ 
ophy he, Zeno, had been destined to beat him for it. As 
Schopenhauer deemed it useless for the individual will to fight 
the universal will, so the Stoic argued that philosophic indif¬ 
ference w'as the only reasonable altitude to a life in which the 
struggle for existence is so iinfaii'ly doomed to inevitable de¬ 
feat. If victory is (piite impossible it should be scorned. The 
secret of ]>eace is not to make our achievements etjual to our de¬ 
sires, hut to lower our desires to the level of our achievements, 
‘^If what you have seems insiillicient to you,” said the Roman 
Stoic Seneca (d. 65 a. d.), ‘"then, though you possess the 
world, you will yet be miserable.” 

Such a principle cried out to heaven for its o])posite, and 
Kpiciirus, though himself as Stoic in life as Zeno, supplied it. 
Kpicurus, says Fenelon,- “bought a fair garden, which he 
tilled himself. There it was he set up his school, and there 
he lived a gentle and agreeable life w ith his disci[>les, whom he 
taught as he walked and worked. . . . He was gentle and af¬ 
fable to all men ... He held there was nothing nobler than 

1 The table on pages 110-111 indicates approximately the main lines of 
philosophical dc\clo])ment in Kurope and America. 

2 Quoted as motto on the title-page of Anatole France's Garden of Epiennts, 



TABLE OF PHILOSOPHIC AFFILIATIONS 






























112 THE STORY OF nilLOSOPHY 

to apply one's self to pliilosopliy.” His starting point is Q 
conviction tliat apathy is impossible, and that pleasure— 
though not necessarily sensual pleasure—is the only conceiv¬ 
able, and quite legitimate, end of life and action. ‘‘Nature 
leads every organism to prefer its own good to every other 
good’’;—even the Stoic finds a subtle [)leasiire in renunciation. 
“We must not avoid pleasures, but we must select them.’’ 
Epicurus, then, is no epicurean; he exalts the joys of intellect 
rather than those of sense; he warns against ])leasurcs that ex¬ 
cite and disturb the soul which they should rather quiet and 
appease. In the end he proposes to seek not j)leasure in its 
usual sense, but ataraxia —trarKiuillity, c(pianimity, repose 
of mind; all of whicli trembles on the verge of Zeno’s “apathy.” 

The Romans, coming to despoil Hellas in 14 j() n. c., found 
these rival schools dividing the philosophic field; and having 
neither leisure nor subtlety for s[)eculation themselves, brought 
back these philosophies with their other spoils to Rome. Cireat 
organizers, as much as inevitable slaves, tend to stoic moods: 
it is difficult to be cither master or servant if one is sensitive. 
So such philosophy as Rome had was mostly of Zeno’s school, 
whether in Marcus Aurelius the emperor or in Epictetus the 
slave; and even Lucretius talked epicureanism stoically (like 
Heine’s Englishman taking his j)lcasures sadly), and con¬ 
cluded his stern gospel of pleasure by committing suicide, 
His noble epic “On the Nature of Things,” ^ follows Epicurus 
in damning pleasure with faint praise. Almost contcmj)orary 
with Caesar and Fornpey, he lived in tlie midst of turmoil and 
alarms; his nervous pen is forever inditing prayers to tran¬ 
quillity and peace. One pictures him as a timid soul whose 
youth had been darkened with religious fears; for he never 
tires of telling his readers that there is no hell, except here, 
and that there are no gods except gentlemanly ones who live 
in a garden of Epicurus in the clouds, and never intrude in 
the affairs of men. To the rising cult of heaven and liell 

1 Professor Shotwell {Introduction to the History of History) calls it “the 
most marvelous performance in all antique literature.” 



FRANCIS BACOxN 


118 


among the people of Rome lie opposes a riitliless materialism. 
Soul and mind arc evolved with the liody, grow with its growth, 
ail with its ailments, and die with its death. Nothing exists 
but atoms, space, and law; and the law of laws is that of evolu¬ 
tion and dissolution everywhere. 

No single thing abides, hut all tilings flow. 

Fragment to fragmt‘nt vhngs ; the things thus grow 
Until we know and name them. By degrees 
They melt, and are no more the things \Ne know. 

Globed from the atoms, falling slow or swift 
I see the suns, I s('e the systems lift 

Their forms; and e\tn the systems and their suns 
Shall go back slo\\ly to the eternal drift. 

Thou too, O Earth—thine empires, lands and seas— 
Least, witli thy stars, of all the galaxii s, 

Globed from the drift like t!u*si‘, like these thou too 
Shalt go. Thou art going, hour by hour, like these. 

Nothing abides. Thy seas in delieati^ haze 
Go off; those mooned sands forsake tluhr place; 

And where they are shall other seas in turn 
Mow with their scythes of whiteness other bays.^ 

To astronomical evolution and dissolution add the origin 
and elimination of species. 

IVIany monsters too the earth of old tried to produce, 
things of strange face and limbs; . . . some without feet, 
some without hands, some without mouth, some without eyes. 

. . . Every other monster ... of this kind earth would 
produce, but in vain; for nature set a ban on their increase, 
they could not reach the coveted flower of age, nor fiiul 
food, nor be united in marriage; . . . and many races of 
living things must then have died out and been unable to 
beget and continue their breed. For in the case of all 
things which you see breathing the breath of life, either 

* Paraphrase by Mallock: Lucretius on Life and Death, pp. 15-16. 



114 


THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 


craft or courage or speed has from the beginning of its 
existence protected and preserved each particular race. . . • 
Those to whom nature has granted none of these qualities 
would lie exposed as a prey and booty to others, until 
nature brought their kind to extinction.^ 

Nations, too, like individuals, slowly grow and surely die: 
‘Some nations wax, others wane, and in a brief space the races 
of living things are changed, and like runners hand over the 
lamp of life.’’ In the face of warfare and inevitable death, 
there is no wisdom but in ataraxla ^—‘"to look on all things with 
a mind at peace.” Here, clearly, the old ])agan joy of life 
is gone, and an almost exotic sj)irit touches a broken lyre. 
History, wliicli is nothing if not humorous, was never so face¬ 
tious as when she gave to this abstemious and epic pessimist the 
name of Epicurean. 

And if this is the spirit of the follower of E})icurus, imagine 
the exhilarating optimism of explicit Stoics like Aurelius or 
Epictetus. Nothing in all literature is so depressing as the 
“Dissertations” of the slave, unless it be the “Meditations” of 
the emperor. “Seek not to have things hap[)en as you clioose 
them, but rather choose that they should happen as tliev do; 
and you sliall live prosperously.” “ No doubt one can in this 
manner dictate the future, and play royal highness to the uni¬ 
verse. Story has it that Epictetus’ master, who treated him 
with consistent cruelty, one day took to twisting Epictetus’ 
leg to pass the time away. “If you go on,” said Epictetus 
calmly, “you will break my leg.” The master went on, and 
the leg was broken. “Did I not tell you,” Epictetus observed 
mildly, “that you would break my leg.^” ^ Yet there is a cer¬ 
tain mystic nobility in this philosophy, as in the quiet courage 
of some Dostoievskian pacifist. “Never in any case say, I 
have lost such a thing; but, I have returned it. Is thy child 
dead?—it is returned. Is thy wife dead?—she is returned. 

iV., 830 f., translation by Munro. 

^Enchiridion and DUtertations of Epictetus; ed. Ilolleston; p. 81. 

^Ibid., xxxvi. 



FRANCIS BACON 


116 


Art thou deprived of tliy estate?—is not tliis also returned?” ^ 
In such passages we feel the proximity of Christianity and its 
dauntless martyrs; indeed were not the Christian ethic of s(‘lf- 
denial, the Christian j)olitical ideal of an almost communistic 
brotherhood of man, and the Christian eschatology of the final 
conflagration of all the world, fragments of Stoic doctrine 
floating on the stream of thought? In Kpictetus the Greco- 
Roman soul has lost its paganism, and is ready for a new faith. 
His book had the distinction of being adopted as a religious 
manual by the early Christian Church. From these ^'Disser¬ 
tations” and Aurelius’ “^reditations” there is but a step to 
“Idle Imitation of Christ.” 

IVIeanwhile the liistorical background was melting into newer 
scenes. There is a remarkable passage in Lucretius “ which 
describes the decay of agric*ilturt‘ in tlic Roman state, and 
attributes it to the exhaustion of tlic soil. IVhatever the cause, 
the wealth of Rome passed into poverty, tlic organization into 
disintegration, the power and ])ride into dcradence and apathy. 
Cities faded back into the undistinguished hinterland; the 
roads fell into disrepair and no longer hummed ^\itll trade; 
the small families of the educated Romans were outbred by 
the vigorous and untutored (ierman stocks that crejit, year 
after year, across the frontier; ])agan cultun' yielded to Ori¬ 
ental cults; and almost imperceptibly the Kinpire passed into 
the Fajiacy. 

The Church, suj^ported in its earlier centuries by the em- 
jierors whose powers it gradually ab.sorbed, grew rapidly in 
numbers, wealth, and range of influence. By the thirteenth 
century it owned one-tliird of the ^oil of Kurope,'^ and its cof¬ 
fers bulged with donations of rich and ])oor. For a thousand 
years it united, with the magic of an unvarying creed, most 
of the peoples of a continent; never before or since was organi¬ 
zation so widespread or so pacific. But this unity demanded, 

1 Ihid., 8(). 

2 11, 1170. This oUlost is also tlu' latest theory of the deeline of Rome: cf. 
Siinkhovitch: fmcard the Cnderstandinp of Jesus; New York, 1021. 

Robinson and Beard: Outlinvs of F.Hropenn Ilistorif: Boston, BUI, i, 413. 



116 


THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 


as the Church thoug^ht, a common faith exalted by supernat¬ 
ural sanctions beyond tlie changes and corrosions of time; 
therefore dogma, definite and defined, was cast like a shell over 
the adolescent mind of medieval Europe. It was within this 
shell that Scholastic philosophy moved narrowly from faith 
to reason and back again, in a battling circuit of uncriticized 
assumptions and pre-ordained conclusions. In tlie thirteenth 
century all Christendom was startled and stimulated by Arabic 
and Jewish translations of Aristotle; but the j)ow’er of the 
Church was still adequate to secure, through "riiomas Atpiinas 
and others, the transmogrification of Aristotle into a medieval 
theologian. The result was subtlety, but not wisdom. ‘‘The 
wit and mind of man,” as Bacon put it, ‘'if it work upon the 
matter, worketh according to the stuff, and is limited thereby; 
but if it work upon itself, as the s{)ider worketh his web, then 
it is endless, and bringeth forth indeed cobwebs of learning, 
admirable for the fineness of thread and work, but of no sub¬ 
stance or profit.” Sooner or later the intellect of Europe 
would burst out of this shell. 

After a thousand years of tillage, the soil bloomed again; 
goods were multiplied into a surplus that compelled trade; 
and trade at its cross-roads built again great cities wherein 
men might cooperate to nourish culture and rebuild civiliza¬ 
tion. The Crusades opened the routes to the East, and let 
in a stream of luxuries and heresies that doomed asceticism 
and dogma. Paper iiow^ came cheaply from Egyj)t, rc[)lacing 
the costly parchment that had made learning the monopoly of 
priests; printing, whicli had long awaited an inexpensive me¬ 
dium, broke out like a liberated explosive, and spread its de¬ 
structive and clarifying influence everywhere. Brave mar¬ 
iners armed now with compasses, ventured out into the wilder¬ 
ness of the sea, and conquered man’s ignorance of the cartli; 
patient observers, armed with telescopes, ventured out beyond 
the confines of dogma, and conquered man’s ignorance of the 
sky. Here and there, in universities and monasteries and hid- 



FllAXCIH BAC(J.\ 


m 


den retreats, nien ceased to dispute and be^an to search; dev- 
ioiisl}', out of tlie effort to clian^ije baser metal into ^old, al¬ 
chemy was transmuted into chemistry; out of astrcjhji^y men 
groped their way with timid boldness to astronomy; and (jut 
of the fables of speaking animals came the science of zoolof^y. 
The awakening be^an with Roger Jhicon (d. 1294*) ; it grew 
with the limitless Leonardo (1452-1019), it reached its ful¬ 
ness in the astronomy of Copernicus (1473 -1545) and (lalileo 
(156*4-1642), in the researches of (jilhert (1544-1603) in 
magnetism and elccti icity, of Ve^aliiis (1514-1564) in anat¬ 
omy, and of Harvey (1578-1657) on tlu* circulation of the 
blood. As knowledge grew, fear d(‘creased; men thought less 
of worshiping the unknown, and more of overcoming it. 
Kvery vital spirit was lifted up with a new’ confidence; l)arriers 
w'erc broken down; there was Jio bound now’ to what man might 
do. ‘^llut that little \essels, like tlie celestial bodies, should 
5ail round the whole glolje, is the happiness of our age. These 
times may justly use p///.v -more l)eyond—‘'where the 

ancients used pins ultra."" ^ It was an age of achievement, 
liope and vigor; of new beginnings and enter[)rises in every 
field; an age that waited for a voice, some synthetic soul 
to sum uj) its spirit and resolve. It was Trancis Bacon, 
“the most powerful mind of modern times,” - who ''rang the 
bell that called the wits together,” and announced that Europe 
had come of age. 


II. THE rOLITK’AL CARm.H OF FRANCIS RAC ON 

Bacon was born on January 22, 1561, at York House, Lon¬ 
don, the residence of his fatlier, Sir Nicholas Bacon, who for 
the first twenty years of EIizal)eth\s reign had been Keeper of 

1 Bacon; 77/c Advancemfixt of Ltarninn; bk. ii, ch, 10. A medieval motto 
showed a ship turning back at Gibraltar into the Mediterranean, with IhO 
inscription, Son phtit ultra -pio no farther. 

2 E. J. Cavne in The Cambridge Modern History, i, 65. 



118 


THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 


the Great Seal. ^‘The fame of the father,” says Macaulay, 
“has been thrown into tlic shade by that of the son. Hut Sir 
Nicholas was no ordinary man.” ^ It is as one mi^lit liave sus¬ 
pected; for genius is an apex, to winch a family builds itself 
through talent, and through talent in the genius’s offspring 
subsides again towards the mediocrity of man. Racon’s 
mother was Lady Anne Cooke, sister-in-law of Sir William 
Cecil, Lord Burghley, who was Elizabeth’s Lord Treasurer, 
and one of the most powerful men in England. Her father 
had been chief tutor of King Edward VI; she herself was a 
linguist and a theologian, and thought nothing of correspond¬ 
ing in Greek with bishops. She made herself instructress of 
her son, and spared no pains in his education. 

But the real nurse of Bacon’s greatness was Elizabethan 
England, the greatest age of the most powerful of modern 
nations. The discovery of America had diverted trade from 
the Mediterranean to the Atlantic, had raised the Atlantic na¬ 
tions—Spain and France and Holland and England—to that 
commercial and financial supremacy which had been Italy’s 
when half of Europe had made her its j)ort of entry and exit 
in the Eastern trade; and with this change the Renaissance 
had passed from Florence and Rome and Milan and Venice 
to Madrid and Paris and Amsterdam and I.ondon. After the 
destruction of the Spanish naval })ower in 1588, the commerce 
of Pmgland spread over every sea, her towns throve with do¬ 
mestic industry, her sailors circumnavigated the globe and her 
captains won America. Her literature blossomed into S[)en- 
ser’s poetry and Sidney’s prose; her stage throbbed with the 
dramas of Shakespeare and Marlowe and Ben Jonson and a 
hundred vigorous pens. No man could fail to flourish in such 
a time and country, if there was seed in him at all. 

At the age of twelve Bacon was sent to Trinity College, Cam¬ 
bridge. He stayed there tliree years, and left it with a strong 
dislike of its texts and methods, a confirmed hostility to the 
cult of Aristotle, and a resolve to set pliilosophy into a more 

lEtiays: Xew York, IS^JO: iii, 3-1-2. 



FRANCIS RACOxV 


119 


fertile path, to turn it from scholastic (]is[)utation to tlie illu- 
iniiiation and increase of human ^ood. Though still a lad of 
sixteen, he was offered an appointment to tlie staff of the 
lin^lisii ambassador in France; and after careful casting up 
of pros and cons^ he acce|)ted. In the Proem to The Interpret 
tation of Nature, lie discusses this fateful decision that turned 
liiin from philosophy to politics. It is an indispensable pas 
sage: 

Whereas, I Ijelievid inVMlf bcu'ii for the service of mankind, 
and reckoned the care of the common \\<*al to be among those 
duties that are of pulilic right, open to all alike, e\en as the 
waters and tlu air, I therefore aski-d myself what could 
most advantage mankind, and for the ])erformance of wliat 
tasks I seeiiK'd to 1 h‘ shap(*d by nature. but when I searched, 

I found no work so ineritorKius as the discovery and develo})- 
rnent of the* arts and inventions that tend to ci\ili/i‘ the life 
of man. . . . Abo\e all, if any man could succeed—-not 
m(*rely in bringing to light some one pnirticular iinention, 
liowever useful—but in kindling in nature a luminary which 
would, at its first rising, shed some light on the present 
limits and borelcrs eif human e!i^co\erics, anel which after¬ 
wards, as it rose still higher, we)uld re\cal ami bring into 
clear view every noeik anel cranny of elarkness, it see ineel to 
me that such a elisce)\eua r would de*scr\e‘ to be callcel the true' 
Fxteneler of the Kingelom of Man eiver the universe, ‘he 
('hampion of human liberty, anel the Kxterminator of the 
necessities that now' keep men in bondage. ]\Ioreo\er, I 
founel in my e)wn nature a special aelaptation for the contein- 
])]ation of truth. Fe)r I hael a mind at once versatile enough 
for that most impeirtant object—I nu'an the rece)gnitie)n 
of similitudes—anel at the same time sutliciently steaely anel 
concentrated for the (d)servatiou of subtle shaeles of elif- 
feremcc. I ])ossesseel a ]>assion feir research, a pe)wer e)f sus¬ 
pending judgment w ith patience, of meeiitating w ith pleasure, 
of assenting with caution, of correcting false impressions 
with reaeliness, and of arranging my Mie)ughts with scru])ii- 
lous pains. I had no hankering after novelty, no blind ael- 
miration for antiejuity. Imposture in every sha]x I utterly 



120 


THE STOllY OF PHILOSOPHY 


detestetl. For all tliese reasons I considered that iny nature 
and disposition had, as it were, a kind of kinship and con¬ 
nection with truth. 

Put my birth, my rearing and education, had all ])ointed, 
not to\uird philosO[)hy, l)ut towards politics: I had been, as 
it w'ere, imbued in politics from childhood. And as is 
not uiifrc(]uently the case with youn^ nun, I was sometimes 
shaken in my mind by opinions. I also thought that my 
duty towards my country had special claims upon me, such 
as could not be ur^ed by other duties of life. Lc.stly, 1 
conceived the hope that, if I held some honorable otlice in 
the state, I mi^ht have secure helps and supports to aid 
my labors, with a \iew' to the accomplishment of my destined 
task. With these motives I applied myself to politics.^ 

Sir Nicholas Bacon died suddenly in 1579. He had in^ 
tended to provide Francis with an estate; hut death over¬ 
reached his plans, and the youn*^ diplomat, called hurriedly 
to London, saw himself, at the a^e of eighteen, fatherless and 
penniless. He had become accustomed to most of tlie luxuries 
of the age, and he found it hard to reconcile himself now 
to a forced simj)licity of life. He took uj) the practice of 
la\v, while he importuned his influential relatives to advance 
him to some political office which would liberate him from 
economic w^orry. His almost begging letters had small re¬ 
sult, considering the grace and vigor of their style, and the 
proved ability of their author. Perhaps it was because Bacon 
did not underrate this ability, and looked u]mn ])osition as 
his due, that Burghley failed to make the desired response; 
and jjcrhaps, also, these letters protested too much the past, 
present and future loyalty of the writer to the honorable Lord: 
in politics, as in love, it does not do to give one’s self wholly; 
one should at all times give, but at no time all. Gratitude 
is nourished with expectation. 

Eventually, Bacon climbed without being lifted from above; 
but every step cost him many years. In 1583 he was elected 

1 Translation by Abbott: Fremeu Bacon; I.ondon, 1885; p. 37. 



FRANCIS BACON 


121 


to Parliament for 'I'aunton; and liis constituents liked him so 
well that they returned him to liis seat in election after elec¬ 
tion. He had a terse and vivid elo(]uence in debate, and was 
an orator without oratory. “No man,” said Ben Jon.^on, 
“ever spoke more neatly, more (coin) pressedly, more weightily, 
or suffered less emptiness, less idleness in what he uttered. No 
member of his speech but consisted of its own graces. His 
hearers could not cough or look aside from him without loss. 
He commanded where he spoke. . . . No nan had their affec¬ 
tions more in his power. The tear of every man that heard 
him was lest that he should make an end.” ^ Enviable orator! 

One [)owerful friend was generous to him—that handsome 
Earl of Essex whom Elizabeth loved unsuccessfully, and so 
learned to hate. In 1595 Essex, to atone for his failure in 
securing a political j)ost for B.icon, presented him with a 
])retty estate at Twickenham. It was a magnificent gift, 
which one might presume would bind Bacon to Ikssex for 
life; but it did not. A few' years later Essex organized a con^ 
spiracy to imprison Elizabeth and select her successor to the 
throne. Bacon wrote letter after letter to his benefactor, pro¬ 
testing against this treason; and when Essex ]3ersisted, Bacon 
wairned him that he would put loyalty to his Queen above even 
gratitude to his friend. Essex made his eft'ort, failed, and 
W'as arrested. Bacon j)lcd with the Queen in his behaP so in¬ 
cessantly that at last she bade him ‘"speak of any other sub¬ 
ject.” When Essex, temporarily freed, gathered armeil forces 
about him, marched into London, and tried to rouse its ]>o]ni- 
lace to revolution. Bacon turned against him angrily. Mean- 
W’hile he had been given a place in the prosecuting ofHce 
of the realm; and when Essex, again arrested, was tried for 
treason. Bacon took active part in the prosecution of the man 
w^ho had been his unstinting friend.- 

1 Nicliol: Francis Jiaron; Kdinburgh, 1907; i, ST. 

'-Hundreds of Noluines have been written on this aspect of Bacon's career. 
Tlie case ajrainst Bacon, as “the wisest and nv amst of mankind" (so Pope 
called him), wmH be found in Macaiila\'.s essay, and more eirciimstantially 
in Abbott's Francis Bacon; these would apply to him his own words: 



122 


THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 


Essex was found guilty, and was put to deatli. Bacon’i^ 
part in the trial made him for a while unpopular; and from 
this time on he lived in the midst of enemies watching for a 
chance to destroy him. His insatiable ambition left him no 
rest; he was ever discontent, and always a year or so ahead of 
his income. He was lavish in his expenditures; display was 
to him a part of policy. When, at the age of forty-five, he 
married, the pompous and costly ceremony made a great gap 
in the dowry which had constituted one of the lady’s attrac¬ 
tions. In 1598 he was arrested for debt. Nevertheless, he 
continued to advance. His varied ability and almost endless 
knowledge made him a valuable member of every important 
committee; gradually higher offices were oi)ened to him: in 
1606 he was made Solicitor-General; in 1618 he became 
Attorney-General; in 1618, at the age of fifty-seven, he was 
at last Lord Chancellor. 

III. THE ESSAYS ^ 

His elevation seemed to realize Plato’s dreams of a 
philosopher-king. For, step by step with his climb to ])olitical 
power. Bacon liad been mounting the summits of ])hiloso])h\\ 
It is almost incredible that the vast learning and literary 
achievements of this man were but the incidents and diversions 
of a turbulent political career. It was his motto that one lived 
best by the hidden life —bene vixH qiii bene lattnt. He could 
not quite make up his mind whether he liked more the con¬ 
templative or the active life. His ho{)c was to be philosopher 
and statesman, too, like Seneca; though he suspected that this 

“Wisdom for a man’s self is the wisdom of rats, that will he sure to leave 
a house somewhat before it falls” (Essay “Of Wisdom for a Man’s Self”). 
The ease for Bacon is given in Spedding’s Life and Timeit of Francin Jfaron, 
and in his Evenings with a Reviewer (a detailed reply to Macaulay). In 
medio veritas. 

1 The author has thought it better in this section to make no nttemj)t 
to concentrate further the already compact thought of Bacon, and has preferred 
to put the philosopher’s wisdom in his own incom])Hrahl(‘ English rather than to 
take probably greater space to say the same things with less clarity, beauty, 
and force. 



FRANCIS BACON 


123 


double direction of his life would sliortcn his rcacli and lessen 
his attainment. ‘‘It is hard to say,” he writes,^ “whetlier mix¬ 
ture of contemj)lations with an active life, or retiring wholly 
to contemplations, do disable or hinder the mind more.” lie 
felt that studies could not be eitlier end or wisdom in them¬ 
selves, and that knowledge unap])lied in action was a pale 
academic vanity. “To spend too much time in studies is 
sloth; to use them too much for ornament is affectation; to 
make judgment wholly by their rules is the humor of a scholar. 
. . • Crafty men condemn studies, simple men admire them, 
and wise men use them; for tliey teacli not tlieir own use; but 
that is a wisdom witliout them, and ab()\e them, won by ob¬ 
servation.” “ Hero is a new' note, which marks the end of 
scholasticism—i. c., the divorce of knowledge from use and 
observation—and places tliat emphasis on cxj)erlence and 
results w'hich distinguishes Knglisli ])hilosGphy, and culmi¬ 
nates in ])ragmalism. Not that Bacon for a moment ceased 
to love books and meditation; in words reminiscent of Socrates 
he writes, “’without j)lulosoj)hy I care not to live'"; *^ ^^nd he 
describes himself as after all “a man naturelly fitted rather 
for literature than for anything else, and borne by some 
destiny, against the inclination of his genius'’ (i. e., charac¬ 
ter), ‘'into active life.” Almost his first })ublication was 
called “The Praise of Knowledge” (159?); its enthn iasm 
for philosophy compels quotation: 

My ])raise sliall dedicate to the mind ilsilf. The mind 
is the man, a!id knowledge mind; a man is but what he 
knoweth. . . . Are not the plea.Mires of the alteetions greater 
than the pleasures of the sen.so, aiul are not the pleasures 
of tlie intellect greater than the ])Ieasures of the atlVctions 
Is not that only a true and natural pleasure whereof there is 
no satiety.^ Is not that knowledge alone that doth clear 
the mind of all perturbations.^ How many things be there 

1 Valerius Terminus, ad fin. 

2 “Of Studies/’ 

ODecliealioii of Wisdom of the Ancients* 

^De Auomer.fis, viii, 3. 



124 


THE STORY OF rillLOSOPIIY 


winch we Imagine are not? How many things do we esteem 
and value more than they are? These vain imaginations, 
these ill-])roportioned estimations, these he tlie clouds of 
error that turn into the storms of perturbations. Is there 
then any such happiness as for a man’s mind to be raised 
above the confusion of things, where he may have a res})ect 
of the order of nature and the error of men? Is there but 
a view only of deligtit aiul not of disco\ery? Of content¬ 
ment and not of benefit? Shall \\e not discern as well the 
riches of nature’s wareliouse as tin* beauty of her shop? Is 
truth barren? Shall ^^e not thereby be able to })roduce 
worthy effects, and to endow the life of man with infinite 
commodities? 

His finest literary product, the Essa/js (1597-1623), sliow 
him still torn between these two loves, for })olitics and for 
philosophy. In the ‘T^^ssay of Honor and Reputation” he 
gives all the degrees of honor to political and military achieve¬ 
ments, none to the literary or the ])hiIosophical. liut in the 
essay ^‘Of Truth” he writes: ‘‘The impiiry of truth, which is 
the love-making or wooing of it; the knowledge of truth, 
wdiich is the praise of it; and the belief of truth, which Is the 
enjoying of it, is the sovereign good of human natures.” 
In books “we converse with the wise, as in action with fools.” 
That is, if we know' how' to select our books. ‘"Some books 
are to be tasted,” reads a famous j)assage, “others to be 
sw'allowed, and some few' to be cliewed /ind digested”; all 
these groups forming, no doubt, an infinitesimal portion of 
the oceans and cataracts of ink in which the world is daily 
batlied and j)oisoned and drowned. 

Surely the Essays must be numbered among the few' books 
that deserve to be chewed and digested. Rarely shall you 
find so much meat, so admirably dressed and flavored, in so 
small a dish. Racon aljhors padding, and disdains to waste 
a word; he offers us infinite riches in a little phrase; each of 
these essays gives in a page or two the distilled subtlety of a 
master mind on a major issue of life. It is difficulb to say 



FRANCIS BACON 


]f25 

whether the matter or the manner more excels; for here is 
Inn^aja^e as supreme in prose as Shakespeare’s is in vt r'.c. 
It is a style like sturdy Tacitus’, compact yet jiolisliCfl; and 
indeed some of its conciseness is due to tlu* skillful adaptation 
of Latin idiom and phrase. lJut its wealth of inetaplior is 
characteristically Kli/ahethan, and i-ethcd'' the exuberance of 
the Renaissance; no man in baii^lish litei-ature i^ so fertile in 
])re^nant and pi^hy comparisons, d’heir lavish array is the 
one defect of Racoids style: the endle-^ metaj>hors and 
aII(‘^^ories and allusions fall hke uhlj‘s upon our iiorves and 
tire us out at last. ''Hie Ah.sv///.v art* like l ich ami heavy food, 
which (‘annot be dii^estcd in !ari;e fjuarititics at once; but 
taken four or five at a time they are the finest iiuellectual 
nourishment in hai^lish.^ 

What shall ^^e extract from this extracted wisdom? Per- 
lia|)s the b('st startin/^ jioint, and the most arr'?stinir deviation 
from the fashions of m(Nlii*\al pliilosophy, is Bacon's frank ac- 
ce[)tance of the Kpicurean ethic, "'ddiat {philosophical pro- 
f^ression, ‘Lse not that you may not wish, wish not that you 
may not fear,’ seems an indication of a weak, ditfident and 
timorous mind. And indeed most doctrines of tlic {ihlloso- 
})hers ajipear to be too di>trimtful, and to take more care of 
mankind than the nature of the thiiii^ reijuires. Thus they 
increase the fears of death by the remedies tlicv brin<^ a. iinst 
it; for whilst they make the life of man little more than a 
])re[)aration and disci[)line for death, it Is eiuiossible but the 
enemy must a|)[)ear terrible when theie is no end of the de¬ 
fense to be made against him." ~ Nothini^ could be so in¬ 
jurious to health as the Stoic re})ression of desire; what is the 
use of jprolon^in^ a life which apathy has turned Into }Pre- 
mature death? And besides, it is an im{Possible {ihilosojiliy; 
for instinct will out. “‘Xature is often hidden; sometimes 
overcome; seldom extinguished. Force maketh nature more 

1 The author's {)refereneki is for lkssa\ s 2, 7, s 12, K), IS, 20, 27, 29, aS, 
39, 12, 1(1, IS,:>2, :>v. 

- Adv. of L., Mi, 2. passages from lliis book a:rc brought in here, 

to avoid a repetition of toj'ic*s under e.ieh work. 



126 


THE STORY OF PIIILOSOPIIV 


violent in the return; doctrine and discourse niaketli nature 
less importune; hut custom only doth alter or subdue na¬ 
ture. . . . Rut let not a man trust liis \ictorv over his nature 
too far; for nature will lay !)uried a ^n*eat time, and yet 
revive upon the occasion or temptation. Like as it was vith 
/Esop’s damsel, turned from a cat to a woman, who sat very 
demurely at the board’s end, till a mouse ran l)efore her. 
Therefore let a man either avoid the occasion altogether, or 
put liimself often to it, that he may be little moved with it.” ^ 
Indeed Racoii thinks the body sb.ould be inured to excesses 
as well as to restraint; else e\en a moment of unrestraint may 
ruin it. (So one accustomcil to the purest and most digestible 
foods is easily upset when forgetfulness or necessity diverts 
him from perfection.) Yet ‘‘variety of delif^hts rather than 
surfeit of thenf’; for “strength of nature in youth passeth over 
many excesses which are o\uni;; a man till his a^’e”; " a man’s 
maturity pays the price of his voutii. One royal road to 
health is a f^arden; Racon agrees ^^ith the author of (icui sis 
that “God Almighty first planted a garden”; and with Voltaire 
that we must cultivate our back yards. 

The moral ])hilosophy of the /J,v.sv//y.s* smacks rather of 
Machiavelli than of the Ghristiaiiity to nnIucIi Racon made 
so many astute obeisances. “We are beholden to M(iclii(trcly 
and writers of that kind, \\ho openly and unmasked declare 
what men do in fact, and not what they ou^ht to do; for it is 
impossible to join the wisdom of the serpent and the in¬ 
nocence of the dove, without a previous knowledge of the 
nature of evil; as, without this, virtue li('s exposed and un¬ 
guarded.”" “The Italians ha\e an ungracious proverb, 
Tanto bnon che val iiicntc,'' —so good that he is good for 
nothing.'* Racon accords his j)reaching with his |)ractice, and 
advises a judicious mixture of dissimulation with honestVt 
like an alloy that will make the purer but softer metal ca[)able 

1 “Of Nature in Mrn.*’ 

2 “Of Kefrinient of Health” 

^ Adv. of L., xii, 2. 

^ “Of Goodness.” 



FRANCIS BACON 


of longer life. Tie wants a fnil and \aii(‘d eart'er, gi\iig 
acquaintance with everything that can broaden, deepen, 
strengthen or sharpen the mind. Ife does not admin ttie 
merely contemplative life; like (ioethe h(* >)C<)rns knowledge 
that does not lead to action: ‘‘men ought to know' that in the 
theatre of human life it is only lor (iods and angels to 1x3 
sj)ectators.'’ ^ 

Jlis religion is [patriotically like the King’s. Thougl: he 
was more than once accused of atiieism, an 1 the whole trend 
of his ])hilosoj)hy is secular and i-at ionalistic. lie makes an elo¬ 
quent and ajiparently sinc(*re disclaimer of unbelief. ‘‘I 
liad rath(‘r believe all th(‘ fable> in the la gend, and the Tal¬ 
mud and the Alcoran, tlian that thi^ uni\ersal fi-anie is with¬ 
out a mind. ... A little philosophy inclineth a man’s mind 
to atheism; but depth in p'lilosoiphv bringetli men’s minds 
about to religion. For while the miiul of man looketh upon 
second causes scattered, it may sometimes rest in them and 
go no further; hut wlien it beholdidh the chain of them, con¬ 
federate and linked together, it must needs tly to Providence 
and Deity.” ‘ Religious indifference is due to a multijdicity 
of factions. “^Phe causes of atheism are, di\isions in re¬ 
ligion, if they be many; for any one division addeth zeal to 
both sides; but many divisions introduce atheism. . . . And 
lastly, learned times, es|)ecially with [leace and ])ros])erity, 
for troubles and adversities rlo more bow' men's miiuis to 
religion.” 

But liacon’s value lies less in theology and ethics than in 
j)sychology. He is an undeceivable analyst of human nature, 
and sends his shaft into every heart. On the stalest subject 
in the world he is refreshingly original. “A married man is 
seven years older in his thoughts the first day.” * “It is 
often seen that bad husbands have good wi\es.” (Bacon 
was an e\cei)li()n.) “A single life doth well with churchmen^ 

1 Adv. of L . vii, 1. 

^ “Of Atheism.” 

3 IbUL 

* Letter to Lord Burglilcy, IG06. 



128 THE STORY OF FIIILOSOPHY 

for charity will hardly water the ground where it must first fill 
a pool. . . . He that hath wife and children hath given 
hostages to fortune; for they are impediments to great enter¬ 
prises, either of virtue or mischief.’’ ^ Racon seems to have 
worked too hard to have had time for love, and jierhaps he 
never quite felt it to its depth. ‘Tt is a strange thing to 
note tlie excess of this passion. . . . There was never proud 
man thought so absurdly well of himself as the lover doth 
of the person beloved. . . .You may observe that amongst all 
the great and worthy persons (whereof the memory remaiiieth 
either ancient or recent), there is not one that hath been 
transported to the mad degree of love; which shows that great 
spirits and great business do keep out this weak passion.” - 
He values friendship more than love, though of friendship 
too he can be sceptical. ‘^There is little friendship in the 
world, and least of all between equals, which was wont to be 
magnified. That that is, is between superior and inferior, 
whose fortunes may comprehend the one the other. ... A 
principal fruit of friendship is the ease and discharge of the 
fullness and swellings of the heart, which passions of all kinds 
do cause and induce.” A friend is an ear. “Those that 
w^ant friends to open themselves unto are cannibals of their 
own hearts. . . . Whoever hath his mind fraught with many 
thoughts, his wits and understanding do clarify and break up 
in the communicating and discoursing with another; he tosseth 
his thoughts more easily; he marshaleth them more orderly; 
he seeth how^ they look when they are turned into words; 
finally, he waxeth wdser than himself; and that more by one 
hour’s discourse than by a day’s meditation.” ^ 

In the essay “Of Youth and Age” he ])uts a book into a 
paragraph. “Young men are fitter to invent than to judge, 
fitter for execution than for counsel, and fitter for new^ proj- 

1 “Of Marriage and Single Life.” Contrast the more pleasing phrase of 
Shakespeare, that “I^ove gives to every power a double power.” 

2 “Of Love.” 

• “Of i^oilowers and Friends”; “Of Friendship.” 



FRANCIS BACON 


129 


ects than for settled business; for the experience of age in 
things that fall within the compass of it, directeth them; but 
in new things abuseth them. . . . Young men, in the conduct 
and management of actions, embrace more than they can hold, 
stir more than they can quiet; fly to the end without considera¬ 
tion of the means and degrees; pursue absurdl}^ some few 
principles which they have chanced upon; care not to’’ (i-e., 
how they) “innovate, which draws unknown inconveniences. 
. . . Men of age object too much, consult too long, adventure 
too little, repent too soon, and seldom drive business home to 
the full period, but content themselves with a mediocrity of 
success. Certainly it is good to compel employments of 
both, . . . because the virtues of either may correct the de¬ 
fects of both.” He thinks, nevertheless, that youth and child¬ 
hood may get too great liberty, and so grow disordered and 
lax. “Let parents choose betimes the vocations and courses 
they mean their children should take, for then they are most 
flexible; and let them not too much apply themselves to the 
disposition of their children, as thinking they will take best 
to that wdiich they have most mind to. It is true that, if the 
affections or aptness of the children be extraordinary, then 
it is good not to cross it; but generally the prcce])t” of the 
Pythagoreans “is good, Optimum lc(j(\ suave ct facile iUud 
faciet coJisuetudOy^ —choose the best; custom will makf* it 
pleasant and easy.^ For “custom is the principal magistrate 
of man’s life.” - 

The politics of the Essays preach a conservatism 
natural in one who aspired to rule. Bacon wants a strong 
central power. Monarchy is the best form of government; 
and usually the efficiency of a state varies with the concentra¬ 
tion of })ower. “There be three ])oInts of business” in gov¬ 
ernment: “the preparation; the debate or examination; ana 
the })erfection” (or execution). “Whereof, if you look fo^ 

1 “Of Parents and Cliildren.” 

2 “Of Custom.” 



130 


THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 


dispatch, let the middle only be the work of many, and thb 
first and last the work of a few.” ^ He is an outspoken 
militarist; he deplores the growth of industry as unfitting 
men for war, and bewails long peace as lulling the warrior 
in man. Nevertheless, he recognizes the importance of raw 
materials: ‘^Solon said well to Croesus (when in osten¬ 
tation Croesus showed him his gold), ‘Sir, if any other come 
that hath better iron than you, he will be master of all this 
gold.” ^ 

Like Aristotle, he has some advice on avoiding revolutions. 
‘‘The surest way to prevent seditions ... is to take away the 
matter of them; for if there be fuel prepared, it is hard to 
tell whence the spark shall come that shall set it on fire. . . • 
Neither doth it follow that the suppressing of fames” (i. e., 
discussion) “with too much severity should bo a remedy of 
troubles; for the despising of them many times checks them 
best, and the going about to slop them but makes a wonder 
long-lived. . . . The matter of sedition is of two kinds: much 
poverty and much discontentment. . . . The causes and mo¬ 
tives of seditions are, innovation in religion; taxes; alteration 
of laws and customs; breaking of privileges; general oppres¬ 
sion; advancement of unworthy persons, strangers; dearths; 
disbanded soldiers; factions grown desperate; and whatsoever 
in offending a people joineth them in a common cause.” The 
cue of every leader, of course, is to divide his enemies and to 
unite his friends. “Generally, the dividing and breaking of 
all factions . . . that are adverse to the state, and setting 
them at a distance, or at least distrust, among themselves, is 
not one of the worst remedies; for it is a desperate case, 
if those that hold with the proceeding of the state be full of 
discord and faction, and those that are against it be entire 
and united.” ^ A better recipe for the avoidance of revolutions 
is an equitable distribution of wealth: “Money is like muck, 

I“0f Dispatch.” 

2 “Of the True Greatness of Kingdoms.” 

»“Of Seditions and Troubles.” 



FRANCIS BACON 


131 


not good unless it be spread.” ^ But tliis does not mean so¬ 
cialism, or even democracy; Bacon distrusts the people, who 
were in his day quite without access to education; ‘‘the lowest 
of all flatteries is the flattery of tlic common people”; - and 
^‘Phocion took it right, who, being applauded by the multitude, 
asked. What had lie done amiss.^”'^ What Bacon wants is 
first a yeomanry of owning farmers; then an ari'^tocracy for 
administration; and above all a ])hilosopher-king. “It is al¬ 
most without instance that any government v.as unprosperous 
under learned governors.” ^ lie menlions Seneca, Antoninus 
Pius and Aurelius; it was his hope that to their names posterity 
would add his own. 

IV. THK GREAT RECONSTRUCTION 

Unconsciously, in the midst of his triumyihs, his heart ^vas 
wdth philosophy. It had been his nurse in youth, it was his 
companion in office, it was to be his consolation in prison 
and disgrace. He lamented the ill-rc])ute into wliich, he 
thought, philosophy had fallen, and blamed an arid scholasti¬ 
cism. “People are very apt to contemn truth, on account of 
the controversies raised about it, and to think those all in a 
WTong way w ho never meet.” ^ “The sciences . . . stand al¬ 
most at a stay, without receiving any augmentations worthy 
of the 1 man race; . . . and all the tradition and siiccc—ion 
of school is still a succession of masters and scholars, not of 
inventors. ... In what is now' done in the matter of science 
there is only a whirling about, and perpetual agitation, end¬ 
ing w'here it began.” ^ All tlirough tlie years of his rise and 
exaltation he brooded over the restoration or reconstruction 
of philosophy; '"Meditor Instaurationein philosophiae.'' ^ 

1 Ibid, 

2 In Xichol, ii, 149. 

» Adv, of L.t vi, 3. 

^Ibid., I. 

8 Ibid, 

« Prefnee to Magna InHauratio. 

f liedargutio Philosophianim, 



132 


THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 


He planned to centre all Ills studies around tins task. First 
of all, he tells us in his ‘Tlan of the Work,” he would writp 
some Introductory Treatises, explaining the stagnation of 
philosophy through the posthunioui^ persistence of old methods, 
and outlining his proposals for a new beginning. Secondly he 
would attempt a new Classification of the Sciences, allocating 
their material to them, and listing the unsolved jiroblems in 
each field. Thirdly, he would describe his new method for the 
Interpretation of Nature. Fourthly, he would try his busy 
hand at actual natural science, and investigate the Phenomena 
of Nature. Fifthly, he would show the Ladder of the Intel- 
led, by which the writers of the past had mounted towards 
the truths that were now taking form out of the background of 
medieval verbiage. Sixthly, he would attempt certain Antici¬ 
pations of the scientific results which he was confident would 
come from the use of his method. And lastly, as Second (or 
Applied) Philosophy, he would picture the utopia which would 
flower out of all this budding science of which he hoped to be 
the prophet. The whole would constitute the Magna Instau- 
ratio, the Great Reconstruction of Philosophy.^ 

It was a magnificent enterprise, and—except for Aristotle 
—without precedent in the history of thought. It would dif- 


1 Bacon's actual works under the foregoing’ heads are chiefly these: 

I. De Interpret at ione Saturae Proemium (Introduction to the Interpre¬ 
tation of Nature, 1603); Redargutio Philosophiarum (A Criticism of 
Philosophies, 1609). 

II. The Advancement of Learning (1603-5); translated as De Augmenti$ 
Scientiarum, 1622). 

III. Cogitata et T’^iVa (Things Thought and Seen, 1607); Filurn Lahyrinthi 
(Thread of the Labyrinth, 1606); Sorum Organum (The New 
Organon, 1608-20). 

IV. Ilistoria Xaturalis (Natural History, 1622); Deacriptio Qlobi InteU 
lectualia (Description of the Intellectual Globe, 1612). 

V. Sylva Sylvarum (Forest of Forests, 1621). 

VI. De Principiia (On Origins, 1621). 

VII. The New Atlantia (1621). 

Note.—All of the above but The New Atlantia and The Advancement of 
Learning were written in Latin; and the latter was translated into Latin 
by Bacon and his aides, to win for it a European audience. Since historians 
and critics always use the Latin titles in their references, these arc here 
given for the convenience of the student. 



FRANCIS BACON 


133 


fer from every other philosophy in aiinin;^ at practice rather 
than at theory, at specific concrete goods rather than at sjiccu- 
lative symmetry. Knowledge is ])ower, not mere argument 
or ornament; ‘St is not an opinion to be held . . . but a work 
to be done; and I . . . am laboririf^ to lay the foundation not 
of any sect or doctrine, but of utility and power.” ^ Here, 
for the first time, are tlic voice and tone of modern science. 

1. The Advancemcm of Lcarnijig 

To produce works, one must have knowledge. “Nature can- 
hot be commanded except by being obeyed.” - Let us learn 
the laws of nature, and we shall be licr masters, as we are now, 
in ignorance, her thralls; science is the road to utopia. But 
in what condition this road is—tortuous, unlit, turning back 
upon itself, lost in useless by-paths, and leading not to light 
but to chaos. Let us then begin by making a siirvej^ of the 
state of the sciences, and marking out for them their proper 
and distinctive fields; let us “seat tlie sciences each in its 
proper place” examine their defects, their needs, and their 
possibilities; indicate the new j)roblcms tliat await their light; 
and in general “open and stir the earth a little about the 
roots” of them.'* 

This is the task which Bacon set himself in The Advet ce¬ 
ment of Learning, “It is my intention,” he writes, like a king 
entering his realm, “to make the circuit of knowledge, noticing 
what parts lie waste and uncultivated, and abandoned bj" the 
industry of man; with a view to engage, by a faithful mapping 
out of the deserted tracts, the energies of public and private 
persons in their improvement.” ® lie would be the royal sur¬ 
veyor of the weed-grown soil, making straight the road, and 
dividing the fields among the laborers. It was a plan auda- 

1 Preface to Marjna Instauratio, 

2 “Plan of Uie Work.” 

^Adv. of L., iv, 2. 

4/6W.. Vi, 3. 

• 76tU, ii, 1. 



THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 


134 

clous to the edge of immodesty; but Bacon was still young 
enough (forty-two is young in a philosopher) to plan great 
voyages. have taken all knowledge to be my province,” 
he had written to Biirghley in 1592; not meaning that he 
would make himself a premature edition of the Encyclopedia 
Britannicay but impl 3 ’ing merelj^ that his work would bring 
him into everj^ field, as the critic and coordinator of every 
science in the task of social reconstruction. The very magni¬ 
tude of his purpose gives a statelj^' magnificence to his style, 
and brings him at times to the heiglit of English prose. 

So he ranges over the vast battle-ground in which human 
research struggles with natural hindrance and human igno¬ 
rance; and in every field he sheds illumination. He attaches 
great importance to phj'siology and medicine; he exalts the 
latter as regulating ^^a musical instrument of much and ex¬ 
quisite wwkmansliip easil\" put out of tunc.” ^ But he ob¬ 
jects to the lax empiricism of contemporary’ doctors, and their 
facile tendency to treat all ailments with the same prescription 
—usually physic. ‘‘Our phy’sicians are like bishops, that have 
the keys of binding and loosing, but no more.” ^ They rely 
too much on mere haphazard, uncoordinated individual experi¬ 
ence; let them experiment more widely, let them illuminate 
human w’ith comparative anatomy, let them dissect and if nec¬ 
essary vivisect; and above all, let them construct an easily ac¬ 
cessible and intelligible record of experiments and results. 
Bacon believes that the medical profession should be permitted 
to ease and quicken death (euthanasv’) wliere the end would 
be otherwise only delayed for a few daj’s and at the cost of 
great pain; but he urges the phy’sicians to give more study 
to the art of prolonging life. ^Tliis is a new part” of medi¬ 
cine, “and deficient, though the most noble of all; for if it may 
be supplied, medicine will not then be wholly versed in sordid 
cures, nor physicians be honored only for necessity, but as dis¬ 
pensers of the greatest earthly happiness that could w’ell be 

^De Auff,, Iv. 

^Adv. of JD., iv, 2. 



FRANCIS BACON 


135 


conferred on mortals.” ^ One can liear some sour Schopen- 
hauerian protesting, at this point, against the assumption that 
longer life would be a boon, and urging, on the contrary, tluit 
the speed with wliich some pliysicians put an end to our ill¬ 
nesses is a consummation devoutly to be j>raised. But Bacon, 
worried and married and harassed tliough he was, never 
doubted that life was a very fine tiling after all. 

In psychology he is almost a ‘"belia\ iorisl”: he demands a 
strict study of cause and effect in human action, and wishes 
to eliminate tlie word chance from tlie vocabulary of science. 
'^Chance is the name of a thing that does not exist.” - And 
‘Vhat chance is in the universe, so will is in man.” ^ Here is 
a world of meaning, and a challenge of war, all in a little 
line: the Scholastic doctrine of free will is pushed aside as 
beneath discussion; and the universal assumption of a ‘‘will” 
distinct from the “intellect” is discarded. These are leads 
which Bacon docs not folhiw up; ^ it is not the only case in 
which he puts a book into a phrase and then passes blithely on. 

Again in a few words. Bacon invents a new science—social 
psychology. ^ “Philosophers should diligently inquire into the 
powers and energy of custom, exercise, habit, education, ex¬ 
ample, imitation, emulation, company, friendship, praise, re¬ 
proof, exhortation, reputation, laws, books, studies etc.; for 
these are the things that reign in men’s morals; by these agents 
the mind is formed and subdued.” ^ So closely has this outline 
been followed by the new science that it reads almost like a 
table of contents for the works of Tarde, Le Bon, Ross, Wallas, 
and Durkheim. 

Nothing is beneath science, nor above it. Sorceries, 
dreams, predictions, telepathic communications, “psychical 
phenomena” in general must be subjected to scientific examina¬ 
tion; “for it is not known in what cases, and how far, effects 

1 Ibid. 

2 Novum Organum, i, 60. 

^ De Interpretatione Naturae, in Nichol, ii, 118. 

4 They arc developed in Spinoza’s Ethics, Appendix to Book I. 

*Jdv. of L., vii, 3. 



136 


THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 


attributed to superstition participate of natural causes.”' 
Despite his strong; naturalistic bent he feels the fascination of 
these problems; nothing human is alien to him. Who knows 
what unsuspected truth, what new science, indeed, may grow 
out of these investigations, as chemistry budded out from al- 
chemj’.^ ^^Vlchemy may be compared to the man who told his 
sons he had left them gold buried somewhere in his vineyard; 
where they, by digging, found no gold, but by turning up the 
mould about the roots of the vines, procured a plentiful vin¬ 
tage. So the search and endeavors to make gold have brought 
many useful inventions and instructive experiments to light.” ^ 
Still another science grows to form in Book VHI: the sci¬ 
ence of success in life. Not yet having fallen from power, 
Bacon offers some preliminary hints on how to rise in the 
world. The first requisite is knowledge: of ourselves and of 
others. Gnoilie seauton is but half; know thyself is valuable 
chiefly as a means of knowing others. We must diligently 

inform ourselves of the particular })ersons we have to deal 
with—their tempers, desires, views, customs, habits; the 
assistances, helps and assurances wliereon they j)rincipally 
rely, and whence they received their power; their defects and 
weaknesses, whereat they chiefly lie open and are accessible; 
their friends, factions, patrons, dependants, enemies, enviers, 
rivals; their times and manners of access. . . . But the 
surest key for unlocking the minds of others turns upon 
searching and sifting either their tempers and natures, or 
their ends and designs; and the more weak and simple arc 
best judged by their temper, but the more prudent and close 
by their designs. . . . But the shortest way to this whole 
inquiry rests upon three particulars; viz.—1. In procuring 
numerous friendships. ... 2. In observing a prudent mean 
and moderation between freedom of discourse and silence. 

• . . But above all, nothing conduces more to the well-rep¬ 
resenting of a man’s self, and securing his own right, than not 
to disarm one’s self by too much sweetness and good-nature, 

tj)e Aug., lx. In Nichol, 129. 
of t 



FRANCIS BACON 


137 


iJehich exposes a man to injuries and reproaches; but 
rather ... at times to dart out some sparks of a free and 
generous mind, that have no less of the sting tlian the 
honey.^ 

Friends are for Bacon chiefly a means to power; he sliares 
with Machiavelli a point of view wliich one is at first inclined 
to attribute to the Renaissance, till one thinks of the fine and 
uncalculating friendships of Michelangelo and Cavalicri, Mon¬ 
taigne and La Boetie, Sir Philip Sidney and Hubert Lan- 
guet.^ Pcrhaj)S this \ery practical assessment of friendship 
helps to explain Bacon’s fall from power, as similar views 
help to explain Napoleon’s; for a man’s friends will seldom 
practice a higher philosophy in their relations with him than 
that which he ])rofesses in his treatment of them. Bacon goes 
on to quote Bias, one of the Seven Wise Men of ancient Greece: 
‘‘Love your friend as if he were to become your enemy, and 
your enemy as if he were to become your friend.” ^ Do not 
betray even to your friend too much of your real purposes and 
thoughts; in conversation, ask questions oftener than you ex 
press opinions; and when you speak, offer date and informa¬ 
tion rather than beliefs and judgments.'* Manifest pride is a 
help to advancement; and “ostentation is a fault in ethics 
rather than in politics.” ^ Here tigain one is reminded of Na¬ 
poleon; Bacon, like the little Corsican, was a simple u:an 
enough within his walls, but outside them he affected a cere¬ 
mony and display which he thought indispensable to public 
repute. 

So Bacon runs from field to field, pouring the seed of his 
thought into every science. At the end of his survey he comes 
to the conclusion that science by itself is not enough: there must 
be a force and discipline outside the sciences to coordinate 
them and point them to a goal. “There is another great and 

1 Jhid., viii, 2. 

2 Cf. Edward Carpenter’s delightful lolaiia: an AnthK^logy of Friendship, 

^ Adv. of L., viil, 2. 

* Essays “Of Dissimulatiom” and “Of Discourse.’* 

^ Adv, of L,, viii, 2. 



138 THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 

powerful cause why the sciences have made but little progress, 
which is this. It is not possible to run a course aright when 
the goal itself has not been rightly placed.” ^ What science 
needs is philosophy—the analysis of scientific method, and the 
coordination of scientific purposes and results; without this, 
any science must be superficial. “For as no perfect view of 
a country can be taken from a flat; so it is impossible to dis¬ 
cover the remote and deep parts of any science by standing 
upon the level of the same science, or without ascending to 
a higher.” - He condemns the habit of looking at isolated 
facts out of their context, without considering the unity 
of nature; as if, he says, one sliould carry a small candle 
about the corners of a room radiant with a central light. 

Philosophy, rather than science, is in the long run Bacon’s 
love; it is only philosophy which can give even to a life of tur^ 
moil and grief the stately ])eace that comes of understanding. 
“Learning conquers or mitigates the fear of death and adverse 
fortune.” He quotes Virgil’s great lines; 

Felix qui potuit rerum cognoscere causas, 

Quique mctus omnes, et incxorabile fatum, 

Subjecit pedibus, strepitumquc Acherontis avari— 

‘Tiappy the man who has learned the causes of things, and has 
put under his feet all fears, and inexorable fate, and the noisy 
strife of the hell of greed.” It is perhaps the best fruit of 
philosophy that through it we unlearn the lesson of endless 
acquisition which an industrial environment so insistently re * 
peats. “Philosophy directs us first to seek the goods of the 
mind, and the rest will either be supplied, or not much 
wanted.” ® A bit of w isdom is a joy forever. 

Government suffers, precisely like science, for lack of ])hi- 
losophy. Philosophy bears to science the same relationship 
which statesmanship bears to politics: movement guided by 

tAdv. of L„ I, 

2 Ibid., i. 
nibUl^ viil, 2 



FRANCIS BACON 


139 


total knowledge and perspective, as against aimless and in¬ 
dividual seeking. Just as the pursuit of knowledge becomes 
scliolasticism wlien divorced from tlic actual needs of men and 
life, so the pursuit of politics becomes a destructive bedlam 
when divorced from science and philosoj)liy. ^^It is wrong tc 
trust the natural body to empirics, wlio commonl}" have a few 
receipts wdiereon tliey rely, but who know' neither the cause of 
the disease, nor the constitution of patients, nor the danger 
of accidents, nor the true methods of cure. And so it must 
needs be dangerous to ha\e the civil body of states managed 
by empirical statesmen, unless well mixed with others who are 
grounded in learning. . . . Though he might be thought par¬ 
tial to liis j)rofession who said, ‘States would tlien be happy, 
w'hen either kings were philosophers or philosophers kings,’ 
yet so much is verified by exji^rienco, that the best times have 
happened under wdse and learned princes.” ^ And he reminds 
us of the great emperors who ruled Rome after Domitian 
and before Commodus. 

So Bacon, like Plato and us all, exalted his hobby, and of¬ 
fered it as the salvation of man. But he recognized, much 
more clearl}^ than Plato (and the distinction announces the 
modern age), the necessity of specialist science, and of soldiers 
and armies of specialist research. No one mind, not even 
Bacon’s, could cover the whole field, though he should look 
from Olympus’ top itself. He knew' he needed help, and keenly 
felt his loneliness in the mountain-air of his unaided enterprise. 
“What comrades have you in your work.^” lie asks a friend. 
“As for me, I am in the completest solitude.” - He dreams of 
scientists coordinated in specialization by constant communion 
and cooperation, and by some great organization holding them 
together to a goal. “Consider what maj" bo expected from 
men abounding in leisure, and from association of labors, and 
from successions of ages; the rather because it is not a w ay over 
which only one man can pass at a time (as is the case wdth that 

1 . 

2 In Nichol, ii, 4. 



140 


THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 

of reasoning), but within which the labors and industries of 
men (especially as regards the collecting of experience) may 
with the best effort be collected and distributed, and then com¬ 
bined. For then only will men begin to know their strength 
when, instead of great numbers doing all the same things, one 
shall take charge of one thing, and another of another.” ^ 
Science, which is the organization of knowledge, must itself be 
organized. 

And this organization must be international; let it pass 
freely over the frontiers, and it may make Europe intellectu¬ 
ally one. ‘‘The next want I discover is the little sympathy 
and correspondence which exists between colleges and univer¬ 
sities, as well throughout Europe as in the same state and 
kingdom.” ^ Let all these universities allot subjects and prob¬ 
lems among themselves, and cooperate both in research and 
in publication. So organized and correlated, the universities 
might be deemed worthy of such royal support as would make 
them what they shall be in Utopia—centers of impartial learn¬ 
ing ruling the world. Bacon notes “the mean salaries appor¬ 
tioned to public lectureships, whether in the sciences or the 
arts”; ® and he feels that this will continue till governments 
take over the great tasks of education. “The wisdom of the 
ancientest and best times always complained that states were 
too busy with laws, and too remiss in point of education.” ^ 
His great dream is the socialization of science for the conquest 
of nature and the enlargement of the j)ower of man. 

And so he appeals to James I, showering upon him the flat¬ 
tery which he knew his Royal Highness loved to sip. James 
W'as a scholar as well as a monarch, prouder of his pen than 
of his sceptre or his sword; something might be expected of 
so literary and erudite a king. Bacon tells James that the 
plans he has sketched are “indeed opera basilica^** —kingly 
tasks—“towards which the endeavors of one man can be but 

^Nov. Orff,, i, lia 
2 Ibid. 

9Adv. of L., H V 
^Ibid., i 



FRANCIS BACON 


141 


as an image on a cross-road, which points out the way but 
cannot tread it.” Certainly these royal undertakings will in¬ 
volve expense; hut ‘‘as the secretaries and spies of princes and 
states bring in bills for intelligence, so you must allow the 
spies and intelligencers of nature to bring in their bills if you 
would not be ignorant of many things worthy to be known. 
And if Alexander placed so large a treasure at Aristotle’s com¬ 
mand for the support of hunters, fowlers, fishers, and the like, 
in much more need do they stand of this beneficence who un¬ 
fold the labyrinths of nature.” ^ W’^ith such royal aid the 
Great Reconstruction can be completed in a few j^ears; with¬ 
out it the task will require generations. 

What is refreshingly new in Bacon is the magnificent as¬ 
surance with which he predicts the conquest of nature b\" man: 
“I stake all on the victory of art over nature in the race.” 
That w^hich men have done is “but an earnest of the things 
they shall do.” But \shy this great hope.^ Had not men 
been seeking truth, and exploring the paths of science, these 
two thousand years.? Why should one hope now for such 
great success where so long a time had gi’en so modest a 
result.?—Yes, Bacon answers; but what if the methods men 
have used have been wrong and useless? What if the road 
has been lost, and research has gone into by-paths ending 
in the air.? We need a ruthless revolution in our m. thods 
of research and thought, in our system of science and 
logic; we need a new Organon, better than Aristotle’s, fit for 
this larger world. 

And so Bacon offers us his supreme book. 

2. The New Organon 

“Bacon’s greatest performance,” says his bitterest critic, “is 
the first book of the Novum Orgamim.'' - Never did a man 
put more life into logic, making induction an epic adventure 

i/6«.p U, 1. 

2 Macaulay, op. eit., p. 92 



142 THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 

and a conquest. If one must study logic, let him begin with 
this book. “This part of human philosophy which regards 
logic is disagreeable to the taste of many, as appearing to them 
no other than a net, and a snare of thorny subtlety. . . . But 
if we would rate things according to their real worth, the ra¬ 
tional sciences are the keys to all the rest.” ^ 

Philosophy has been barren so long, saj's Bticon, because she 
needed a new method to make her fertile. The great mistake 
of the Greek philosophers was that they spent so much time 
in theory, so little in observation. But thought should be the 
aide of observation, not its substitute. “Man,” says the first 
aphorism of the Novum Organum, as if flinging a challenge to 
all metaphysics,—“Man, as the minister and interpreter of 
nature, does and understands as much as his observations on 
the order of nature . . . permit him; and neither knows nor 
is capable of more.” The predecessors of Socrates were in 
this matter sounder than his followers; Democritus, in particu¬ 
lar, had a nose for facts, rather than an eye for the clouds. 
No wonder that philosophy has advanced so little since Aris¬ 
totle’s day; it has been using Aristotle’s methods. “To go 
beyond Aristotle by the light of Aristotle is to think that a 
borrowed light can increase the original light from which it is 
taken.” ^ Now, after two thousand years of logic-chopping 
with the machinery invented by Aristotle, pliilosophy has fallen 
so low that none will do her reverence. All these medieval 
theories, theorems and disputations must be cast out and for¬ 
gotten; to renew herself philosophy must begin again with a 
clean slate and a cleansed mind. 

The first step, therefore, is the Expurgation of the Intel¬ 
lect. We must become as little children, innocent of isms and 
abstractions, washed clear of prejudices and preconceptions. 
We must destroy the Idols of the mind. 

An idol, as Bacon uses the word (reflecting perhaps the 

iAdv. of L., «, 1. 

* Vodoriu* Terminut, 



FRANCIS BACON 


14S 

Protestant rejection of image-worship), is a picture taken for 
a reality, a thought mistaken for a thing. Errors come un 
der this liead; and the first problem of logic is to trace and 
dam the sources of these errors. Bacon proceeds now to a 
justly famous analj^sis of fallacies; “no man,” said Condillac, 
“has better known than Bacon the causes of human error.” 

These errors are, first. Idols of the Tribe ,—fallacies natu¬ 
ral to humanity in general. “For man’s sense is falsely as¬ 
serted” (by Protagoras’ “Man i^ the measure of all tilings”) 
“to be the standard of things: on the contrary, all the percej)- 
tions, both of the senses and the mind, boar reference to man 
and not to the universe; and the human mind resembles those 
uneven mirrors which impart their own properties to different 
objects . . . and distort and disfigure them.” ^ Our thoughts 
are pictures rather of ourselves than of their objects. For 
example, “the human understanding, from its peculiar na¬ 
ture, easily supposes a greater degree of order and regularity 
in things than it really finds. . . . Hence the fiction that all 
celestial bodies move in perfect circles.” - Again, 

the human understanding, when any proposition has been 
once laid down (either from general admission and belief, 
or from the pleasure it affords), forces everything else to 
add fresh support and confirmation: and although most 
cogent and abundant instances may exist to the contK4ry, 
yet either does not observe, or despises them, or it gets 
rid of and rejects them by some distincllon, with violent 
and injurious prejudice, rather than sacrifice the authority 
of its first conclusions. It was well answered by him who 
was shown in a temple the votive tablets suspended by such 
as had escaped the peril of shipwreck, and was pressed as 
to whether he would then recognize the power of the gods. 

. . . “But where arc the portraits of those that have per¬ 
ished in spite of their vows?” All superstition is much the 
same, whether it be that of astrology, dreams, omens, retribu- 

1 Nov. Org., i, 41. 

2 Ibid., i. 45. 



144 


THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 


tive judgment, or the like, in all of which the deluded be¬ 
lievers observe events which are fulfilled, but neglect and pass 
over their failure, though it be much more common.^ 

“Having first determined the question according to his will, 
man then resorts to experience; and bending her into con¬ 
formity with his placets, leads her about like a captive in a 
procession.” - In short, “the human understanding is no dry 
light, but receives an infusion from the will and affections, 
whence proceed sciences which may be called ‘sciences as one 
would.’ . . . For what a man had rather were true, he more 
readily believes.” ® Is it not so? 

Bacon gives at this point a word of golden counsel. “In 
general let every student of nature take this as a rule—that 
whatever his mind seizes and dwells upon wdth peculiar satis¬ 
faction, is to be held in suspicion; and that so much the more 
care is to be taken, in dealing with such questions, to keep 
the understanding even and clear.” * “The understanding 
must not be allowed to jump and fly from particulars to re¬ 
mote axioms and of almost the highest generality; ... it 
must not be supplied with wings, but rather hung with weights 
to keep it from leaping and flying.” ® The imagination may 
be the greatest enemy of the intellect, whereas it should be 
only its tentative and experiment. 

A second class of errors Bacon calls Idols of the Cave —er- 
rors peculiar to the individual man. “For every one . . . has 
a cave or den of his own, which refracts and discolors the light 
of nature”; this is his character as formed by nature and nur¬ 
ture, and by his mood or condition of body and mind. Some 
minds, e. g., are constitutionally analytic, and see differences 
everywhere; others are constitutionally synthetic, and see re¬ 
semblances; so we have the scientist and the painter on the 

i-IUd., i, 46. 
a Ibid., i, 63. 
sihid., I, 49. 

*Ihid., i. 68. 
urn., i, 104. 



FRANCIS BACON 


145 


one hand, and on the other hand the poet and tlie philosopher. 
Again, “some dispositions evince an unbounded admiration for 
antiquity, others eagerly embrace novelty; only a few can 
preserve the just medium, and neither tear up what the an¬ 
cients have correctly established, nor despise the just innova¬ 
tions of the moderns.” ^ Truth knows no parties. 

Thirdly, Idols of the Market-place, arising “from the com¬ 
merce and association of men with one another. For men con¬ 
verse by means of language; but words are imposed according 
to the understanding of the crowd; and there arises from a 
bad and inapt formation of words, a wonderful obstruction to 
the mind.” * Philosophers deal out infinites with the careless 
assurance of grammarians handling infinitives; and yet does 
any man know what this “infinite” is, or whether it has even 
taken the precaution of existing.'’ Philosophers talk about 
“first cause uncaused,” or “first mover unmoved”; but are not 
these again fig-leaf phrases used to cover naked ignorance, 
and perhaps indicative of a guilty conscience in the user? 
Every clear and honest head knows that no cause can be cause¬ 
less, nor any mover unmoved. Perhaps the greatest recon¬ 
struction in philosophy would be simply this—that we should 
stop lying. 

“Lastly, there are idols which have migrated into men’s 
minds from the various dogmas of philosophers, and also from 
wrong laws of demonstration. These I call Idols of the 
Theatre, because in my judgment all the received systems of 
philosophy are but so many stage-plays, representing worlds of 
their own creation after an unreal and scenic fashion. . . . 
And in the plays of this philosophic theater you may observe 
the same thing which is found in the theater of the poets,— 
that stories invented for the stage are more compact and 
elegant, and more as we would wish them to be, than true 
stories out of history.” * The world as Plato describes it 

ilbid., i, 56. 
i, 43. 
i, 44. 



146 


THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 


is merely a world constructed by Plato, and pictures Plato 
rather than the world. 

We shall never get far along towards the truth if these 
idols are still to trip us up, even the best of us, at every turn. 
We need new modes of reasoning, new tools for the under¬ 
standing. ‘^And as the immense regions of the West Indies 
Lad never been discovered, if the use of the compass had not 
^rst been known, it is no wonder tliat the discovery and ad- 
Yancement of arts hath made no greater progress, when the 
art of inventing and discovering of the sciences remains 
hitherto unkno^^^l.’’ ^ ^^And surely it would be disgraceful, 
if, while the regions of the material globe . . . have been in 
our times laid widely open and revealed, the intellectual globe 
should remain shut up within the narrow limits of old dis¬ 
coveries.” ^ 

Ultimately, our troubles are due to dogma and deduction; 
we find no new truth because we take some venerable but 
questionable proposition as an indubitable starting-point, and 
never think of putting this assumption itself to the test of 
observation or experiment. Now ‘‘if a man will begin with 
certainties, he shall end in doubts; but if he will be content to 
begin in doubts he shall end in certainties” (alas, it is not 
quite inevitable). Here is a note common in the youth of 
modern philosophy, part of its declaration of independence; 
Descartes too would presently talk of the necessity of “me¬ 
thodic doubt” as the cobweb-clearing pre-requisite of honest 
thought. 

Bacon proceeds to give an admirable description of the 
scientific method of inquiry. “There remains simple experi¬ 
ence: which, if taken as it comes, is called accident” (“em¬ 
pirical”), “if sought for, experiment. . . . The true metlmd 
of experience first lights the candle” (hypothesis), “and then 
by means of the candle shows the way” (arranges and delimits 
the experiment) ; “commencing as it does with experience duly 

l ddv. of L.j v, 2. 

MNov. Org., 1. 84, 



FRANCIS BACON 


14T 

ordered and digested, not bungling nor erratic, and from it 
educing axioms, and from established axioms again new ex- 
perirnentso” ^ (We have here—as again in a later passage ^ 
which speaks of the results of initial experiments as a ‘‘first 
vintage’’ to guide further research—an explicit, though per* 
haps inadequate, recognition of that need for hypothesis, 
experiment and deduction which some of Bacon’s critics sup¬ 
pose him to have entirely overlooked.) We must go to 
nature instead of to books, traditions and authorities; we 
must “put nature on the rack and compel her to bear witness” 
even against herself, so that we may control her to our ends 
We must gather together from every quarter a “natural his¬ 
tory” of the world, built by the united research of Europe’s 
scientists. We must have induction. 

But induction does not mean “simple enumeration” of all 
the data; conceivably, this might be endless, and useless; no 
mass of material can by itself make science. This would be 
like “chasing a quarry over an open country”; we must 
narrow and enclose our field in order to capture our prey. 
The method of induction must include a technique for the 
classification of data and the elimination of hypotlieses; so 
that by the progressive canceling of possible explanations 
one only shall at last remain. Perhaps the most useful item 
in this technique is the “table of more or less,” which lists 
instances in which two qualities or conditions increase or 
decrease together, and so reveals, presumably, a causal rela¬ 
tion between the simultaneously varying phenomena. So 
Bacon, asking, What is heat.^—seeks for some factor that in¬ 
creases with the increase of heat, and decreases with its de¬ 
crease; he finds, after long analysis, an exact correlation 
between heat and motion; and his conclusion that heat is a 
form of motion constitutes one of his few specific contributions 
to natural science. 

By this insistent accumulation and analysis of data we 

^Ibid., i, ^2. 

tlbid,, ii, 20. 



THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 


148 

come, in Bacon’s phrase, to the form of the phenomenon 
which we study,—to its secret nature and its inner essence. 
The theory of forms in Bacon is very much like the theory 
of ideas in Plato: a metaphysics of science. ‘‘When we speak 
of forms we mean nothing else than those laws and regulations 
of simple action which arrange and constitute any simple 
nature. . . . The form of heat or the form of light, there¬ 
fore, means no more than the law of heat or the law of light.” ^ 
(In a similar strain Spinoza was to say that the law of the 
circle is its substance.) “For although nothing exists in na¬ 
ture except individual bodies exhibiting clear individual effects 
according to particular laws; yet, in each branch of learning, 
those very laws—their investigation, discovery and develop¬ 
ment—are the foundation both of theory and of practice.” ^ 
Of theory and of practice; one without the other is useless 
and perilous; knowledge that does not generate achievement 
is a pale and bloodless thing, unworthy of mankind. We 
strive to learn the forms of things not for the sake of the forms 
but because by knowing the forms, the laws, we may remake 
things in the image of our desire. So we study mathematics 
in order to reckon quantities and build bridges; we study 
psychology in order to find our way in the jungle of society. 
When science has sufficiently ferreted out the forms of things, 
the world will be merely the raw material of whatever utopia 
man may decide to make. 

3. The Utopia of Science 

To perfect science so, and then to perfect social order by 
putting science in control, would itself be utopia enough. 
Such is the world described for us in Bacon’s brief fragment 
and last work. The New Atlantis^ published two years before 
his death. Wells thinks it Bacon’s “greatest service to 
science” ® to have drawn for us, even so sketchily, the picture 

iJWrf., ii, 13, 17. 

2lhid., ii, 2. 

8 Outline of History, ch. xxxy, sect. 6. 



FRANCIS BACON 


149 

rtf a society in which at last science has its proper place as 
the master of things; it was a royal act of imagination by 
which for three centuries one goal has been held in view by 
the great army of warriors in the battle of knowledge and 
invention against ignorance and poverty. Here in these few 
pages we have the essence and the ‘‘form” of Francis Bacon, 
the law of his being and his life, the secret and continuous 
aspiration of his soul. 

Plato in the Timaeus ^ had told of the old legend of Atlantis, 
the sunken continent in the Western seas. Bacon and others 
identified the new America of Columbus and Cabot with this 
old Atlantis; the great continent had not sunk after all, but 
only men’s courage to navigate the sea. Since this old Atlantis 
was now known, and seemed inhabited by a race vigorous 
enough, but not quite like the brilliant Utopians of Bacon’s 
fancy, he conceived of a new Atlantis, an isle in that distant 
Pacific which only Drake and Magellan had traversed, an 
isle distant enough from Europe and from knowledge to give 
generous scope to the Utopian imagination. 

The story begins in the most artfully artless way, like 
the great tales of Defoe and Swift. “We sailed from Peru 
(where we had continued for the space of one whole year), 
for China and Japan by the South Sea.” Came a great 
calm, in which the ships for weeks lay quietly on the boundless 
ocean like specks upon a mirror, while the provisions of the 
adventurers ebbed away. And then resistless winds drove the 
vessels pitilessly north and north and north, out of the island- 
dotted south into an endless wilderness of sea. The rations 
were reduced, and reduced again, and again reduced; and 
disease took hold of the crew. At last, when they had resigned 
themselves to death, they saw, almost unbelieving, a fair island 
looming up under the sky. On the shore, as their vessel 
neared it, they saw not savages, but men simply and yet 
beautifully clothed, clean, and manifestly of developed ini 
telligence. They were permitted to land, but were told thai 
I Sect 25. 



160 


THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 


the island government allowed no strangers to remain. 
Nevertheless, since some of the crew were sick, they might all 
stay till these were well again. 

During the weeks of convalescence the wanderers unraveled, 
day by day, the mystery of the New Atlantis. “There 
reigned in this island about nineteen hundred years ago,” one 
of the inhabitants tells them, “a King whose memory above all 
others we most adore. . . . His name was Solamona, and we 
esteem him as the Law-giver of our nation. This King had a 
large heart . . . and was wholly bent to make his kingdom 
and people happy.” ^ “Among the excellent acts of that 
King one above all hath the preeminence. It was the creation 
and institution of the Order, or Society, which is called 
Solomon’s House; the noblest foundation, as w^e think, that 
was ever upon the earth; and tlie lantherne of this kingdom.” ^ 

There follows a description of Solomon’s House, too com¬ 
plicated for a quoted abstract, but eloquent enough to draw 
from the hostile Macaulay the judgment that “there is not 
to be found in any human composition a passage more 
eminently distinguished by profound and serene wisdom.” ® 
Solomon’s House takes the place, in the New Atlantis, of the 
Houses of Parliament in London; it is the home of the island 
government. But there are no politicians there, no insolent 
“elected persons,” no “national palaver,” as Carlyle would 
say; no parties, caucuses, primaries, conventions, campaigns, 
buttons, lithographs, editorials, speeches, lies, and elections; 
the idea of filling public office by such dramatic methods seems 
never to have entered the heads of these Atlantans. But 
the road to the heights of scientific repute is open to all, and 
only those who have traveled the road sit in the councils of 
the state. It is a government of the people and for the people 
by the selected best of the people; a government by technicians, 
architects, astronomers, geologists, biologists, physicians, 

New Atlantis, Cambridge University Press, 1900; p. 20. 

^Ibid., p. 22. 

p. XXF. 



FRANCIS BACON 


161 


chemists, economists, sociologists, psychologists and philoso¬ 
phers. Complicated enough; but think of a government with¬ 
out politicians! 

Indeed there is little government at all in the New Atlantis; 
these governors are engaged rather in controlling nature than 
in ruling man. “The End of Our Foundation is the Knowl¬ 
edge of Causes and secret motions of things; and the enlarg¬ 
ing of the bounds of human empire, to the effecting of all 
things possible.” ^ This is the key-sentence of the book, and 
of Francis Bacon. We find the governors engaged in such 
undignified tasks as studying the stars, arranging to utilize 
for industry the power of falling water, developing gases for 
the cure of various ailments,^ experimenting on animals for 
surgical knowledge, growing new varieties of plants and 
animals by cross-breeding, jtc. “We imitate the flights of 
birds; we have some degree of flying in the air. We have 
ships and boats for going under water.” There is foreign 
trade, but of an unusual sort; the island produces what it 
consumes, and consumes what it produces; it does not go to 
war for foreign markets. “We maintain a trade, not of gold, 
silver, or jewels, nor for silks, nor for spices, nor for any 
other commodity or matter; but only for God’s first creature, 
which was light; to have light of the growth of all parts of 
the world.” ^ These “Merchants of Light” are members of 
Solomon’s House who are sent abroad every twelve years to 
live among foreign peoples of every quarter of the civilized 
globe; to learn their language and study their sciences and 
industries and literatures; and to return, at the end of the 
twelve years, to report their findings to the leaders of Sol¬ 
omon’s House; while their places abroad are taken by a new 
group of scientific explorers. In this way the best of all the 
world comes soon to the New Atlantis. 

Brief as the picture is, we see in it again the outline of 
p. 34. 

*Cf. The New York Times of May 2, 1923, for a report of War Depfi/t 
ment chemists on the use of war gases to cure diseases. 

9 New Atlantis, p. 24. 



162 


THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 


every philosopher’s utopia—a people guided in peace and 
modest plenty by their wisest men. The dream of every 
thinker is to replace the politician by the scientist; why does 
it remain only a dream after so many incarnations? Is it 
because the thinker is too dreamily intellectual to go out into 
the arena of affairs and build his concept into reality? Is 
it because the hard ambition of the narrowly acquisitive soul 
is forever destined to overcome the gentle and scrupulous 
aspirations of philosophers and saints? Or is it that science 
is not yet grown to maturity and conscious power?—^that only 
in our day do physicists and chemists and technicians begin to 
see that the rising role of science in industry and war gives 
them a pivotal position in social strategy, and points to the 
time when their organized strength will persuade the world to 
call them to leadership? Perhaps science has not yet 
merited the mastery of the world; and perhaps in a little 
while it will. 

V. CRITICISM 

And now how shall we appraise this philosophy of Francis 
Bacon’s? 

Is there anything new in it? Macaulay thinks that induc¬ 
tion as described by Bacon is a very old-fashioned affair, over 
which there is no need of raising any commotion, much less a 
monument. ^Tnduction has been practiced from morning 
till night by every human being since the world began. The 
man who infers that mince pies disagreed with him because 
he was ill when he ate them, well when he ate them not, most 
ill when he ate most and least ill when he ate least, has em¬ 
ployed, unconsciously but suflSciently, all the tables of the 
Novum Organum.^^ ^ But John Smith hardly handles his 
^‘table of more or less” so accurately, and more probably will 
continue his mince-pies despite the seismic disturbances of his 
lower strata. And even were John Smith so wise, it would 
not shear Bacon of his merit; for what does logic do but 
lOp. eit., p. 471. 



FRANCIS BACON 16S 

formulate the experience and methods of the wise?—what does 
any discipline do but try by rules to turn the art of a few 
into a science teachable to all? 

But is the formulation Bacon’s own? Is not the Socratic 
method inductive? Is not Aristotle’s biology inductive? Did 
not Roger Bacon practise as well as preach the inductive 
method which Francis Bacon merely preached? Did not Gal¬ 
ileo formulate better the procedure that science has actually 
used? True of Roger Bacon, less true of Galileo, less true 
yet of Aristotle, least true of Socrates. Galileo outlined 
the aim rather than the method of science, holding up before 
its followers the goal of mathematical and quantitative formu¬ 
lation of all experience and relationships; Aristotle practised 
induction when there was nothing else for him to do, and 
where the material did not lend itself to his penchant for th« 
deduction of specific conclusions from magnificently general 
issumptions; and Socrates did not so much practise induction 
*—the gathering of data—as analysis—the definition and dis^ 
crimination of words and ideas. 

Bacon makes no claim to parthenogenetic originality; like 
Shakespeare he takes with a lordly hand, and with the same 
excuse, that he adorns whatever he touches. Every man has 
his sources, as every organism has its food; what is his is the 
way in which he digests them and turns them into flesh and 
blood. As Rawley puts it, Bacon ‘‘contemned no man’s ob¬ 
servations, but would light his torch at every man’s candle.” ^ 
But Bacon acknowledges these debts: he refers to “that useful 
method of Hippocrates,” ^—so sending us at once to the real 
source of inductive logic among the Greeks; and “Plato,” he 
writes (where less accurately we write “Socrates”), “giveth 
good example of inquiry by induction and view of particulars; 
though in such a wandering manner as is of no force or 
fruit.” ® He would have disdained to dispute his obligations 

1 Quoted by J. M. Robertson, Introduction to The PhUotophical Works of 
Francis Bacon; p. 7. 

2Adv, of L,, iv, 2. 

s FiU Lab,, ad fin. 



154 THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 

to these predecessors; and we should disdain to exaggerate 
them. 

But then again, is the Baconian method correct? Is it the 
method most fruitfully used in modern science? No: gener¬ 
ally, science has used, with best result, not the accumulation 
of data (“natural history”) and their manipulation by the 
complicated tables of the Novum Organum, but the simpler 
method of hypothesis, deduction and experiment. So Dar¬ 
win, reading Illalthus’ Essay on Population, conceived the 
idea of applying to all organisms tlie ]\Ialthusian hypothe¬ 
sis that population tends to increase faster than the means of 
subsistence; deduced from this hypothesis the probable con¬ 
clusion that the pressure of population on the food-supply re¬ 
sults in a struggle for existence in which the fittest survive, 
and by which in each generation every species is changed into 
closer adaptation to its environment; and finally (having by 
hypothesis and deduction limited his problem and his field of 
observation) turned to “the unwithered face of nature” and 
made for twenty years a patient inductive examination of the 
facts. Again, Einstein conceived, or took from Newton, the 
hypothesis that light travels in curved, not straight lines; de¬ 
duced from it the conclusion that a star appearing to be (on 
the straight-line theory) in a certain position in the heaven? 
is really a little to one side of that position; and he invited 
experiment and observation to test the conclusion. Obviously 
the function of hypothesis and imagination is greater than 
Bacon supposed; and the procedure of science is more direct 
and circumscribed than in the Baconian scheme. Bacon him¬ 
self anticipated the superannuation of liis method; the actual 
practice of science would discover better modes of investiga¬ 
tion than could be worked out in the interludes of statesman* 
ship. “These things require some ages for the ripening of 
them.” 

Even a lover of the Baconian spirit must concede, too, that 
IJie great Chancellor, while laying down the law for science, 
bailed to keep abreast of the science of his time. He rejected 



FRANCIS BACON 


153 


Copernicus and ignored Kepler and Tycho Brahe; he depre¬ 
ciated Gilbert and seemed unaware of Harvey. In truth, he 
loved discourse better than research; or pcrliaj)s fic liad no time 
for toilsome investigations. Such work as he did in philos¬ 
ophy and science was left in fragments and chaos at his death; 
full of repetitions, contradictions, aspirations, and introduc¬ 
tions. Ars longa, vita brevis —art is long and time is fleeting: 
this is the tragedy of every great soul. 

To assign to so overworked a man, whose reconstruction 
of philosophy had to be crowded into the crevices of a harassed 
and a burdened political career, the vast and complicated crea¬ 
tions of Shakespeare, is to waste the time of students with the 
parlor controversies of idle theorists. Shakespeare lacks just 
that whicli distinguishes the lordly Chancellor—erudition and 
philosophy. Shakespeare has an impressive smattering of 
many sciences, and a mastery of none; in all of them he speaks 
with the eloquence of an amateur. He accepts astrologj : 
‘‘This huge state . . . whereon the stars in secret influence 
comment.” ^ He is forever making mistakes which the learned 
Bacon could not possibly have made: his Hector quotes Aris¬ 
totle and his Coriolaiius alludes to Cato; he sujiposes the Luper- 
calia to be a hill; and he understands Caesar about as pro¬ 
foundly as Caesar is understood by H. G. Wells. He makes 
countless references to his early life and his matrimonial tri¬ 
bulations. He perpetrates vulgarities, obscenities and puns 
natural enough in the gentle roisterer who could not quite out¬ 
live the Stratford rioter and the butcher’s son, but hardly to 
be expected in the cold and calm philosopher. Carlyle calls 
Shakespeare the greatest of intellects; but he was rather the 
greatest of imaginations, and the keenest eye. He is an ines¬ 
capable psychologist, but he is not a philosopher: he has no 
structure of thought unified by a purpose for his own life and 
for mankind. He is immersed in love and its problems, and 
thinks of philosophy, through Montaigne’s phrases, only when 
his heart is broken. Otherwise he accepts the world blithely 
1 Sonnet xv. 



THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 


156 

enough; he is not consumed with the reconstructive vision that 
ennobled Plato, or Nietzsche, or Bacon. 

Now the greatness and the weakness of Bacon lay precisely 
in his passion for unity, his desire to spread the wings of his 
coordinating genius over a hundred sciences. He aspired to 
be like Plato, “a man of sublime genius, who took a view of 
everything as from a lofty rock.” He broke down under the 
weight of the tasks he had laid upon himself; he failed for- 
givably because he undertook so much. He could not enter 
the promised land of science, but as Cowley’s epitaph ex¬ 
pressed it, he could at least stand upon its border and point 
out its fair features in the distance. 

His achievement was not the less great because it was in¬ 
direct. His philosophical works, though little read now, 
“moved the intellects which moved the world.” ^ He made 
himself the eloquent voice of the optimism and resolution of 
the Renaissance. Never was any man so great a stimulus to 
other thinkers. King James, it is true, refused to accept his 
suggestion for the support of science, and said of the Naoum 
Organum that “it was like the peace of God, which passeth all 
understanding.” But better men, in 1662, founding that 
Royal Society which was to become the greatest association of 
scientists in the world, named Bacon as their model and in¬ 
spiration; they hoped that this organization of English re¬ 
search would lead the way toward that Europe-wide association 
which the Advancement of Learning had taught them to 
desire. And when the great minds of the French Enlighten¬ 
ment undertook that masterpiece of intellectual enterprise, the 
EncgclopSdie, they dedicated it to Francis Bacon. “If,” said 
Diderot in the Prospectus, “we have come of it successfully, 
we shall owe most to the Chancellor Bacon, who threw out the 
plan of an universal dictionary of sciences and arts, at a 
time when, so to say, neither arts nor sciences existed. That 
extraordinary genius, when it was impossible to write a history 

iMacaulay, p. 491. 



FRANCIS BACON 


167 

of what was known, wrote one of what it was necessary to 
learn.” D’Alembert called Bacon “the greatest, the most 
universal, and the most eloquent of philosophers.” The Con¬ 
vention published the works of Bacon at the expense of the 
state.* The whole tenor and career of British thought have 
followed the philosophy of Bacon. His tendency to conceive 
the world in Dcmocritcan mechanical terms gave to his 
secretary, Hobbes, the starting-point for a thorough-going 
materialism; his inductive method gave to Locke the idea of an 
empirical psychology, bound by observation and freed from 
theology and metaphysics; and his emphasis on “commodities” 
and “fruits” found formulation in Bentham’s identification of 
the useful and the good. 

Wherever the spirit of control has overcome the spirit of 
resignation. Bacon’s influence has been felt. He is the voice 
of all those Europeans who have changed a continent from a 
forest into a treasure-land of art and science, and have made 
their little peninsula the center of the world. “IVIen are not 
animals erect,” said Bacon, “but immortal gods.” “The Cre¬ 
ator has given us souls equal to all the world, and yet satiable 
not even with a world.” Everything is possible to man. 
Time is young; give us some little centuries, and we shall con¬ 
trol and remake all things. We shall perhaps at last learn the 
noblest lesson of all, that man must not fight man, but must 
make war only on the obstacles that nature offers to the tri¬ 
umph of man. “It will not be amiss,” writes Bacon, in one of 
his finest passages, “to distinguish the three kinds, and as it 
were grades, of ambition in mankind. The first is of those who 
desire to extend their power in their native country; which 
kind is vulgar and degenerate. The second is of those who 
labor to extend the power of their country and its dominion 
among men; this certainly has more dignity, but not less 
covetousness. But if a man endeavor to establish and extend 
the power and dominion of the human race itself over the uni- 


1 Nkhol, ii. 235. 



158 THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 

verse, his ambition is without doubt both a more wholesom® 
thing and a nobler than the other two.” ^ It was Bacon’s 
fate to be torn to pieces by these hostile ambitions struggling 
for his soul. 


VI. EPILOGUE 

“Men in great place are thrice servants; servants to the 
sovereign or state, servants of fame, and servants of business, 
so as they have no freedom, neither in their persons nor in their 
action, nor in their time. . . . The rising unto place is labori¬ 
ous, and by pains men come to greater pains; and it is some¬ 
times base, and by indignities men come to dignities. The 
standing is slippery, and the regress is either a downfall or 
at least an eclipse.” ^ What a wistful summary of Bacon’s 
epilogue! 

“A man’s shortcomings,” said Goethe, “are taken from his 
epoch; his virtues and greatness belong to himself.” This 
seems a little unfair to the Zeitgeist, but it is exceptionally 
Just in the case of Bacon. Abbott,® after a painstaking study 
of the morals prevalent at Elizabeth’s court, concludes that 
all the leading figures, male and female, were disciples of 
Maohiavelli. Roger Ascham described in doggerel the four 
cardinal virtues in demand at the court of the Queen: 

Cog, lie, flatter and face. 

Four ways in Court to win men grace. 

If thou be thrall to none of these. 

Away, good Piers! Home, John Cheese! 

It was one of the customs of those lively days for judges to 
take “presents” from persons trying cases in their courts. 
Bacon was not above the age in this matter; and his tendency 
to keep his expenditure several years in advance of his in¬ 
come forbade him the luxury of scruples. It might have 

iNov. Orff., i, 129. 

2 Essay “Of Great Place,** 

BFraneii Bacon, ch. i. 



FRANCIS BACON 


159 


jpassed unnoticed, except tliat lie had made enemies in Essex’ 
case, and by his readiness to sabre foes with his speech. A 
friend liad warned him that ‘‘it is too common in every man’s 
moutli in Court that ... as your ton;?ue liath been a razor 
to some, so sliall theirs be to you.” ^ But lie left the warnings 
unnoticed. lie seemed to be in good favor with the King; 
he had been made Baron Verularn of Vcrulam in 1618, and 
Viscount St. Albans in 1621; and for tlirce years he had been 
Cliancellor. 

Then suddenly the blow came. In 1621 a disappointed 
suitor charged him with taking money for the despatch of 
a suit; it was no unusual matter, but Bacon knew at once 
that if liis enemies wished to press it they could force his 
fall. He retired to his home, and waited developments. 
When he learned that all his foes were clamoring for his 
dismissal, he ^ent in his “confession and humble submission” 
to the King. James, yielding to pressure from the now vic¬ 
torious Parliament against which Bacon had too persistently 
defended him, sent him to the Tower. But Bacon was released 
after two days; and the heavy fine which had been laid upon 
him w^as remitted by the King. His pride was not quite 
broken. “I was the justest judge that was in England these 
fifty years,” he said; “but it was the justest judgment that 
was in Parliament these two hundred years.” 

He spent the five years that remained to him in the obscurity 
and peace of his home, harassed by an unwonted poverty, but 
solaced by the -active pursuit of ])hilosophy. In these five 
years he wrote his greatest Latin work, De Aug mentis 
Scientiarum^ published an enlarged edition of the Essays, a 
fragment called Sylva Sylvarum^ and a History of Henry VIL 
He mourned that he had not sooner abandoned politics and 
given all his time to literature and science. To the very last 
moment he was occupied with work, and died, so to speak, on 
the field of battle. In his essay “Of Death” he had voiced a 

p. 13 note. 



160 


THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 


wish to die “in an earnest pursuit, which is like one wounded 
in hot blood, who for the time scarce feels the hurt.” Like 
Ciesar, he was granted his choice. 

In March, 1626, while riding from London to Highgate, 
and turning over in his mind the question how far flesh might 
be preserved from putrefaction by being covered with snow, he 
resolved to put the matter to a test at once. Stopping off at 
a cottage, he bought a fowl, killed it, and stuffed it with snow. 
While he was doing this he was seized with chills and weak¬ 
ness; and finding himself too ill to ride back to town, he gave 
directions that he should be taken to the nearby home of 
Lord Arundel, where he took to bed. He did not yet resign 
life; he wrote cheerfully that “the experiment. . . succeeded 
excellently well.” But it was his last. The fitful fever of his 
varied life had quite consumed him; he was all burnt out now, 
too weak to fight the disease that crept up slowly to his heart, 
He died on the ninth of April, 1626, at the age of sixty-five, 

He had written in his will these proud and characteristic 
words: “I bequeath my soul to God. ... My body to be 
buried obscurely. My name to the next ages and to foreign 
nations.” The ages and the nations have accepted him. 



CHAPTER IV 


SPINOZA 

I. HISTORICAL, AND BIOGRAPHICAL. 

1. The Odyssey of the Jews 

T he story of the Jews since the Dispersion is one of 
the epics of European liistory. Driven from their 
natural home by the Roman capture of Jerusalem 
(70 A. D.), and scattered by flight and trade among all the 
nations and to all the continents; persecuted and decimated 
by the adherents of the great religions—Christianity and 
Mohammedanism—which had been born of their scriptures 
and their memories; barred by the feudal system from owming 
land, and by the guilds from taking part in industry; shut 
up within congested ghettocs and narrowing pursuits, mobbed 
by the people and rqjibed by the kings; building with their 
finance and trade the towns and cities indispensable to civiliza¬ 
tion; outcast and excommunicated, insulted and injured;— 
yet, without any political structure, without any legal com¬ 
pulsion to social unity, without even a common language, this 
wonderful people has maintained itself in body and soul, has 
preserved its racial and cultural integrity, has guarded with 
jealous love its oldest rituals and traditions, has patiently and 
resolutely awaited the day of its deliverance, and has emerged 
greater in number than ever before, renowned in every field 
for the contributions of its geniuses, and triumphantly re¬ 
stored, after two thousand years of wandering, to its ancient 
and unforgotten home. What drama could rival the grandeur 
of these sufferings, the variety of these scenes, and the glory 

ISl 



162 THE STORY Oi PHILOSOPHY 

and justice of this fulfillment? What fiction could match the 
romance of this reality? 

The dispersion had begun many centuries before the fall of 
the Holy City; through Tyre and Sidon and other ports the 
Jews had spread abroad into every nook of the Mediterranean 
—to Athens and Antioch, to Alexandria and Carthage, to 
Rome and Marseilles, and even to distant Spain. After the 
destruction of the Temple the dispersion became almost a mass 
migration. Ultimately the movement followed two streams: 
one along the Danube and the Riiine, and thence later into 
Poland and Russia; the other into Spain and Portugal with 
the conquering Moors (711 a. d.). In Central Europe the 
Jews distinguished themselves as merchants and financiers; 
in the Peninsula they absorbed gladly the mathematical, 
medical and philosophical lore of the Arabs, and developed 
their own culture in the great schools of Cordova, Barcelona 
and Seville. Here in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries the 
Jews played a prominent part in transmitting ancient and 
Oriental culture to western Europe. It was at Cordova that 
Moses Maimonides (1135-1204), the greatest physician of 
his age, wrote his famous Biblical commentary, the Guide to 
the Perplexed; it was at Barcelona that Hasdai Crescas 
(1370-1430) propounded heresies that shook all Judaism. 

The Jews of Spain prospered and flourished until the con¬ 
quest of Granada by Ferdinand in 1492 and the final ex¬ 
pulsion of the Moors. The Peninsular Jews now lost the 
liberty which they had enjoyed under the lenient ascendency 
of Islam; the Inquisition swept down upon them with the 
choice of baptism and the practice of Christianity, or exile and 
the confiscation of their goods. It was not that the Church 
was violently hostile to the Jews—the popes repeatedly 
protested against the barbarities of the Inquisition; but the 
King of Spain thought he might fatten his purse with the 
patiently-garnered wealth of this alien race. Almost in the 
year that Columbus discovered America, Ferdinand discovered 
the Jews. 



SPINOZA 


163 

The great majority of the Jews accepted the harder alterna¬ 
tive, and looked about them for a place of refuge. Some took 
ship and sought entry into (lenoa and other Italian ports; 
they were refused, and sailed on in growing misery and disease 
till they reached the coast of Africa, where many of them 
were murdered for the jewels they were believed to have 
swallowed. A few were received into Venice, which knew how 
much of its maritime ascendency it owed to its Jews. Others 
financed the vo 3 "age of Columbus, a man ])erhaps of their o^\^l 
race, hoping that the great mivigator would find them a new 
home. A large number of them embarked in the frail vessels 
of that day and sailed up the Atlantic, between hostile England 
and hostile France, to find at last some measure of welcome 
in little big-souled Holland. Among these was a family of 
Portuguese Jews named Espinoza. 

Thereafter Spain decayed, and Holland prospered. The 
Jews built their first sjmagogue in Amsterdam in 1598; and 
vhen, seventy-five years later, thej’^ built another, the most 
magnificent in Europe, their Christian neighbors helped them 
to finance the enterprise. The Jews were happy now, if we 
may judge from the stout content of the merchants and rabbis 
to whom Rembrandt has given imnlortalitJ^ But towards the 
middle of the seventeenth century the even tenor of events was 
interrupted by a bitter controversy within the synagogue. 
Uriel a Costa, a passionate jmuth who had felt, like some other 
Jews, the sceptical influence of the Renaissance, wrote a 
treatise vigorously attacking the belief in another life. This 
negative attitude was not necessarily^ contrary to older Jewish 
doctrine; but the Synagogue compelled him to retract 
publicly, lest it should incur the disfavor of a community that 
had welcomed them generously, but would be unappeasably 
hostile to any heresy striking so sharply at what was con¬ 
sidered the very essence of Christianity. The formula of re¬ 
traction and penance required the proud author to lie down 
athwart the threshold of the synagogue while the members 
of the congregation walked over his body. Humiliated be- 



164 THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 

yond sufferance, Uriel went home, wrote a fierce denunciation 
of his persecutors, and shot himself.^ 

This was in 1647. At that time Baruch Spinoza, “the 
greatest Jew of modern times,” - and the greatest of modern 
philosophers, was a lad of fifteen, the favorite student of the 
synagogue. 


The Education of Spinoza 

It was this Odyssey of the Jews that filled the backgi’ound 
of Spinoza’s mind, and made him irrevocably, however excom¬ 
municate, a Jew. Though his father was a successful mer¬ 
chant, the youth had no leaning to such a career, and pre¬ 
ferred to spend his time in and around the synagogue, absorb¬ 
ing the religion and the history of his people. He was a 
brilliant scholar, and the elders looked upon him as a future 
light of their community and their faith. Very soon he 
passed from the Bible itself to the exactingly subtle com¬ 
mentaries of the Talmud; and from these to the writings of 
Maimonides, Levi ben Gerson, Ibn Ezra, and Hasdai Crescas; 
and his promiscuous voracity extended even to the mystical 
philosophy of Ibn Gebirol and the Cabbalistic intricacies of 
Moses of Cordova. 

He was struck by the latter’s identification of God and the 
universe; he followed up the idea in Ben Gerson, who taught 
the eternity of the world; and in Hasdai Crescas, who believed 
the universe of matter to be the body of God. He read in 
Maimonides a half-favorable discussion of the doctrine of 
Averroes, that immortality is impersonal; but he found in the 
Guide to the Perplexed more perplexities than guidance. 
For the great Rabbi propounded more questions than he an¬ 
swered ; and Spinoza found the contradictions and improbabili¬ 
ties of the Old Testament lingering in his thought long after 
the solutions of Maimonides had dissolved into forgetfulness. 

1 Gutzkow has turned this stoiy into a drama which still finds place in 
European repertoires. 

s Renan, Mare AuriU; Paris, Calmann-Levy: p. 65. 



SPINOZA 


165 


The cleverest defenders of a faith arc its greatest enemies; 
for their subtleties engender doubt and stimulate the mind. 
And if this was so with the writings of Maimonides, so much 
the more was it the case with the commentaries of Ibn Ezra, 
where the problems of the old faith were more directly ex¬ 
pressed, and sometimes abandoned as unanswerable. The 
more Spinoza read and pondered, the more his simple cer¬ 
tainties melted away into wondering and doubt. 

His curiosity was aroused to inquire wliat the thinkers of 
the Christian world liad written on those great questions of 
God and human destiny. He took up the study of Latin with 
a Dutch scholar. Van den Ende, and moved into a wider 
sphere of experience and knowledge. His new teacher was 
something of a heretic himseP, a critic of creeds and govern¬ 
ments, an adventurous fellow who stepped out of his library to 
join a conspiracy against the king of France, and adorned 
a scaffold in 1674. He had a pretty daughter who became 
the successful rival of Latin for the affections of Spinoza; 
even a modern collegian might be persuaded to study Latin 
by such inducements. But the young lady was not so much 
of an intellectual as to be blind to the main chance; and when 
another suitor came, bearing costly presents, she lost interest 
in Spinoza. No doubt it was at tliat moment that our hero 
became a philosopher. 

At any rate he had conquered Latin; and through Latin 
he entered into the heritage of ancient and medieval European 
thought. He seems to have studied Socrates and Plato and 
Aristotle; but he preferred to them the great atomists, 
Democritus, Epicurus and Lucretius; and the Stoics left their 
mark upon him ineffaceably. He read the Scholastic phi¬ 
losophers, and took from them not only their terminology, but 
their geometrical method of exposition by axiom, definition, 
proposition, proof, scholium and corollary. He studied 
Bruno (1548—1600), that magnificent rebel whose fires ‘^not 
all the snows of the Caucasus could quench,” who wandered 
from country to country and from creed to creed, and ever- 



166 


THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 


more “came out by the same door wherein he went,”—search¬ 
ing and wondering; and who at last was sentenced by the 
Inquisition to be killed “as mercifully as possible, and without 
the shedding of blood”—i. e., to be burned alive. What a 
wealth of ideas there was in this romantic Italian! First of 
all the master idea of unity: all reality is one in substance, 
one in cause, one in origin; and God and this reality are one. 
Again, to Bruno, mind and matter are one; every particle of 
reality is composed inseparably of the physical and the 
psychical. The object of philosophy, therefore, is to per¬ 
ceive unity in diversity, mind in matter, and matter in mind; 
to find the synthesis in which opposites and contradictions 
meet and merge; to rise to that highest knowledge of universal 
unity which is the intellectual equivalent of the love of God. 
Every one of these ideas became part of the intimate structure 
of Spinoza’s thought. 

Finally and above all, he was influenced by Descartes 
(1596-1650), father of the subjective and idealistic (as was 
Bacon of the objective and realistic) tradition in modern phi¬ 
losophy. To his French followers and English enemies the 
central notion in Descartes was the primacy of consciousness— 
his apparently obvious proposition that the mind knows itself 
more immediately and directly than it can ever know anything 
else; that it knows the “external world” only through that 
world’s impress upon the mind in sensation and perception; 
that all philosophy must in consequence (though it should 
doubt everything else) begin with the individual mind and 
self, and make its first argument in three words: “I think, 
therefore I am” (Cogito, ergo sum). Perhaps there was 
something of Renaissance individualism in this starting-point; 
certainly there was in it a whole magician’s-hat-full of conse¬ 
quences for later speculation. Now began the great game 
of epistemology,^ which in Leibniz, Locke, Berkeley, Hume 

1 Epistemology means, etymologically, the logic {logos) of understanding 
^epirsteme), —e., the origin, nature and validity of knowledge. 



SPINOZA 16T 

^ind Kant waxed into a Three Hundred Years’ War that at 
once stimulated and devastated modern philosophy. 

But this side of Descartes’ thou^^lit did not interest Spi¬ 
noza; he would not lose himself in the labyrinths of epis¬ 
temology. What attracted him was Descartes’ conception cf 
a homogeneous ‘‘substance” underlying all forms of matter, 
and another liornogeneous substance underlying all forms of 
mind; this separation of reality into two ultimate substances 
was a challenge to the unif^dng passion of Spinoza, and 
acted like a fertilizing sperm upon the accumulations of his 
thought. What attracted him again was Descartes’ desire to 
explain all of the world except God and the soul by mechanical 
and mathematical laws,—an idea going back to Leonardo and 
Galileo, and perhaps reflecting the development of machinery 
and industry in the cities of Italy. Given an initial push by 
God, said Descartes (very much as Anaxagoras hnd said two 
thousand years before), and the rest of astronomic, geologic 
and all non-mental processes and developments can be ex¬ 
plained from a homogeneous substance existing at first in a 
disintegrated form (the “nebular hypothesis” of Laplace and 
Kant); and every movement of every animal, and even of the 
human body, is a mechanical movement,—the circulation of 
the blood, for example, and reflex action. All the world, and 
every body, is a machine; but outside the world is God, and 
within the body is the spiritual soul. 

Here Descartes stopped; but Spinoza eagerly passed on. 

3, Excommunication 

These were the mental antecedents of the externally quiet 
but internally disturbed youth wlio in 1656 (he had been 
born in 1632) was summoned before the elders of the 
synagogue on the charge of heresy. Was it true, they asked 
him, that he had said to his friends that God might have a 
body—the world of matter; that angels might be hallucina- 



168 THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 

tions; that the soul might be merely life; and that the Old 
Testament said nothing of immortality? 

We do not know what he answered. We only know that 
he was offered an annuity of $500 if he would consent to 
maintain at least an external loyalty to his synagogue and his 
faith; ^ that he refused the offer; and that on July 27, 1656, 
he was excommunicated with all tlie sombre formalities of 
Hebrew ritual. ^‘During the reading of the curse, the wail¬ 
ing and protracted note of a great horn was heard to fall in 
from time to time; the lights, seen brightly burning at the 
beginning of the ceremony, were extinguished one by one as 
it proceeded, till at the end the last went out—^typical of the 
extinction of the spiritual life of the excommunicated man 
—and the congregation was left in total darkness.” ^ 

Van Vloten has given us the formula used for excommunica¬ 
tion : ® 

The heads of the Ecclesiastical Council hereby make 
known, that, already well assured of the evil opinions and 
doings of Baruch de Espinoza, they have endeavored in sundry 
ways and by various promises to turn him from his evil 
courses. But as they have been unable to bring him to any 
better way of thinking; on the contrary, as they are every 
day better certified of the horrible heresies entertained and 
avowed by him, and of the insolence with which these heresies 
are promulgated and spread abroad, and many persons 
worthy of credit having borne witness to these in the 
presence of the said Espinoza, he has been held fully con¬ 
victed of the same. Review having therefore been made of 
the whole matter before the chiefs of the Ecclesiastical 
Council, it has been resolved, the Councillors assenting 
thereto, to anathematize the said Spinoza, and to cut him 
off from the people of Israel, and from the present hour to 
place him in Anathema with the following malediction: 

With the judgment of the angels and the sentence of the 

^ Graetz, Hutory of the Jews; New York, 1919: vol. v, p. 140. 
a Willis, Benedict de Spinoza; London, 1870; p. 85. 

• Translation by Willis., p. 84. 



SPINOZA 


169 


saints, we anathematize, execrate, curse and cast out Baruch 
de Espinoza, the whole of the sacred community assenting, 
in presence of the sacred books with the six-hundred-and- 
thirteen precepts written therein, pronouncing against him 
the malediction wherewith Elisha cursed the children, and all 
the maledictions written in the Book of the Law. Let him 
be accursed by day, and accursed by night; let him be 
accursed in his lying down, and accursed in his rising up; 
accursed in going out and accursed in coining in. May the 
Lord never more pardon or arknowledge him; may the 
wrath and displeasure of the Lord burn henceforth against 
this man, load him with all the curses written in the Book 
of the Law, and blot out his name from under the sky; may 
the Lord sever him for evil from all the tribes of Israel, 
weight him with all the maledictions of the firmament con¬ 
tained in the Book of Law; and may all ye who are obedient 
to the Lord your God be saved this day. 

Hereby then are all p.dmonished that none hold converse 
with him by word of mouth, none hold communication with 
him by writing; that no one do him any service, no one abide 
under the same roof with him, no one approach within four 
cubits length of him, and no one read any document dictated 
by him, or written by his hand. 

Let us not be too quick to judge the leaders of the syna¬ 
gogue; for they faced a delicate situation. No doubt they 
hesitated to subject themselves to the charge that they were as 
intolerant of heterodoxy as the Inquisition which had exiled 
them from Spain. But they felt that gratitude to their hosts 
in Holland demanded the excommunication of a man whose 
doubts struck at Christian doctrine quite as vitally as at 
Judaism. Protestantism was not then the liberal and fluent 
philosophy which it now^ becomes; the wars of religion had 
left each group entrenched immovably in its own creed, 
cherished now all the more because of the blood just shed in 
its defense. What would the Dutch authorities say to a 
Jewish community which repaid Christian toleration and pro¬ 
tection by turning out in one gejieration an a Costa, and in 



170 


THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 


the next a Spinoza? Furthermore, religious unanimity 
seemed to the elders their sole means of preserving the little 
Jewish group in Amsterdam from disintegration, and almost 
the last means of preserving the unity, and so ensuring the 
survival, of the scattered Jews of the world. If tliey had had 
their own state, their own civil law, their own establishments 
of secular force and power, to compel internal cohesion and 
external respect, they might have been more tolerant; but 
their religion was to them their patriotism as well as their 
faith, the synagogue was their center of social and political 
life as well as of ritual and worship; and the Bible whose 
veracity Spinoza had impugned was the “portable Father- 
land” of their people; under these circumstances, they thought, 
heresy was treason, and toleration suicide. 

One feels that they should have bravely run these risks; 
but it is as hard to judge another justly as it is to get out 
of one’s skin. Perhaps ^ Menassch ben Israel, spiritual head 
of the whole Amsterdam community of Jews, could have 
found some conciliatory formula within which both the syna¬ 
gogue and the philosopher might have found room to live in 
mutual peace; but the great rabbi was then in London, 
persuading Cromwell to open England to the Jews. Fate had 
written that Spinoza should belong to the world. 

J 4 ,. Retirement and Death 

He took the excommunication witl) quiet courage, saying: 
“It compels me to notliing which I should not have done in 
any case.” But this was whistling in the dark; lu truth tlie 
young student now found himself bitterly and pitilessly alone. 
Nothing is so terrible as solitude; and few forms of it so 
difficult as the isolation of a Jew from all his people. Spi¬ 
noza had already suffered in the loss of his old faith; to so 
uproot the contents of one’s mind is a major operation, and 
leaves many wounds. Had Spinoza entered another fold, 

lAs suggested by Israel Abrahams, art. Jews, Encyclopedia Brilannica. 



SPINOZA 


m 

embraced another of the orthodoxies in which men were 
grouped like kine huddling together for warmth, he might 
have found in the role of distinguished convert some of the 
life which he had lost by being utterly outcast from his family 
and his race. But he joined no other sect, and lived his life 
alone. His father, who had looked forward to his son’s pre¬ 
eminence in Hebrew learning, sent him away; his sister tried 
to cheat him of a small inheritance; ^ his former friends 
shunned him. No wonder there is little humor in Spinoza! 
And no wonder he breaks out with some bitterness occasionally 
when he thinks of the Keepers of the Law. 

Those who wish to seek out the causes of miracles, and 
to understand the things of nature as philosophers, and not 
to stare at them in a>toiii.shment like fools, are soon con¬ 
sidered heretical and impious, and proclaimed as such by 
those whom the mob adore as the interpreters of nature 
and the gods, I'or these men know that once ignorance is 
put aside, that wonderment would be taken away wdiich is 
the only means by which their authority is preserved^ 

The culminating experience came shortly after the excom¬ 
munication. One night as Spinoza was walking through the 
streets, a pious ruffian bent on demonstrating his theology by 
murder, attacked the young student with drawn dagger. 
Spinoza, turning quickly, escaped with a slight wound on the 
neck. Concluding that there are few places in this world 
where it is safe to be a philosopher, he went to live in a quiet 
attic room on the Outerdek road outside of Amsterdam. It 
was now, probably, that he changed his name from Baruch to 
Benedict. His host and hostess were Christians of the Men- 
nonite sect, and could in some measure understand a heretic. 
They liked his sadly kind face (those who have suffered much 
become very bitter or very gentle), and were delighted when, 
occasionally, he would come dowm of an evening, smoke his 

iHe contested the case in court; won it; and then turned over the bequest 
to the sister. 

^Eihica, Part I, Appendix. 



172 


THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 


pipe with them, and tune his talk to their simple strain. He 
made his living at first by teaching children in Van den 
Ende’s school, and then by polishing lenses, as if he had an 
inclination for dealing with refractory material. He had 
learned the optical trade while living in the Jewish community; 
it was in accord with Hebrew canon that every student should 
acquire some manual art; not only because study and honest 
teaching can seldom make a livelihood, but, as Gamaliel had 
said, work keeps one virtuous, whereas ‘‘every learned man 
who fails to acquire a trade will at last turn out a rogue.” 

Five years later (1660) his host moved to Rhynsburg, near 
Leyden; and Spinoza moved with him. The house still stands, 
and the road bears the philosopher’s name. These were years 
of plain living and high thinking. Many times he stayed in 
his room for two or three days together, seeing nobody, and 
having his modest meals brought up to him. The lenses 
were well done, but not so continuously as to earn for Spinoza 
more than merely enough; he loved wisdom too much to be 
a “successful” man. Colerus, who followed Spinoza in these 
lodgings, and wrote a short life of the philosopher from the 
reports of those who had known him, says, “He was very 
careful to cast up his accounts every quarter; which he did 
that he might spend neither more nor less than what he had 
to spend for each year. And he would say sometimes, to the 
people of the house, that he was like the serpent who forms a 
circle with his tail in his mouth; to denote that he had nothing 
left at the year’s end.” ^ But in his modest way he was 
happy. To one who advised him to trust in revelation rather 
than in reason, he answered: “Though I were at times to 
find the fruit unreal which I gather by my natural understand¬ 
ing, yet this would not make me otherwise than content; be¬ 
cause in the gathering I am happy, and pass my days not in 
sighing and sorrow, but in peace, serenity and joy.” ^ ^‘If 
Napoleon had been as intelligent as Spinoza,” says a great 

iln Pollock, Life and Philosophy of Spinoza; London, 1899; p. 393. 

2 Epistle 34, ed. Willis. 



SPINOZA 172 

sage, would have lived in a garret and written four 
books.” ^ 

To the portraits of Spinoza which have come down to us 
we may add a word of description from Colerus. ‘Tie was 
of a middle size. He had good features in liis face, the skin 
somewhat black, the hair dark and curly, the eyebrows long 
and black, so that one might easily know by his looks that he 
was descended from Portuguese Jews. As for his clothes, he 
was very careless of them, and they were not better than those 
of the meanest citizen. One of the most eminent councillors 
of state went to see him, and found him in a very untidy 
morning-gown; whereupon the councillor reproached him for 
it, and offered him another. Spinoza answered that a man 
was never the better for having a fine gown, and added, ‘It is 
unreasonable to wrap up things of little or no value in a 
precious cover.’ ” ^ Spinoza’s sartorial philosophy was not 
always so ascetic. “It is not a disorderly or slovenly carriage 
that makes us sages,” he writes; “for affected indifference to 
personal appearance is rather evidence of a poor spirit in which 
true wisdom could find no worthy dwelling-place, and science 
could only meet with disorder and disarray.” ^ 

It was during this five years’ stay at llhynsburg that Spi¬ 
noza wrote the little fragment “On the Improvement of the 
Intellect” {De Intellectus Emendntionc)^ and the Ethics 
Geometrically Demonstrated (Ethica More Geometrico De¬ 
monstrata). The latter w^as finished in 1665; but for ten 
years Spinoza made no effort to publish it. In 1668 Adrian 
Koerbagh, for printing opinions similar to Spinoza’s, was 
sent to jail for ten years; and died there after serving 
eighteen months of his sentence. When, in 1675, Spinoza 
went to Amsterdam trusting that he might now safely publish 
his chef-d^oeuvre, “a rumor was spread about,” as he writes 
to his friend Oldenburg, “that a book of mine was soon to 

1 Anatole Frarce: 3f. Bergeret in ParU; New York, 1921; p. 180. 

2 In Pollock, p. 894. 

« Tn WUlls, p. 72. 



174 


THE STORY OE PHILOSOPHY 


appear, in which I endeavored to prove that there is no God. 
This report, I regret to add, was by many received as true. 
Certain theologians (who probably were themselves the autho?: 
of the rumor) took occasion upon this to lodge a complaint 
against me with the prince and tlie magistrates. . . . Hav¬ 
ing received a hint of this state of things from some trust¬ 
worthy friends, who assured me, further, that the theologians 
were everywhere lying in wait for me, I determined to put 
off my attempted publication until such time as I should see 
what turn affairs would take.” ^ 

Only after Spinoza’s death did the Ethics appear (1677), 
along with an unfinished treatise on politics {Tractatus 
Politicus) and a Treatise on the Rainhoxv. All these works 
were in Latin, as the universal language of European phi¬ 
losophy and science in the seventeenth century. A Short 
Treatise on God and Man, written in Dutch, was discovered 
by Van Vloten in 1852; it was apparently a preparatory 
sketch for the Ethics. The only books published by Spinoza 
in his lifetime were The Principles of the Cartesian Philosophy 
(1663), and A Treatise on Religion and the State {Tractatus 
Theologico-Politicus), which appeared anonymously in 1670 
It was at once honored with a place in the Index Expurga- 
torius, and its sale was prohibited by the civil authorities; with 
this assistance it attained to a considerable circulation under 
cover of title-pages which disguised it as a medical treatise 
or an historical narrative. Countless volumes were written to 
refute it; one called Spinoza ‘Hhe most impious atheist that 
ever lived upon the face of the earth”; Colerus speaks of an¬ 
other refutation as ‘‘a treasure of infinite value, which shall 
never perish”; ^—only this notice remains of it. In addition to 
such public chastisement Spinoza received a number of letters 
intended to reform him; that of a former pupil, Albert Burgh, 
who had been converted to Catholicism, may be taken as a 
sample: 

1 Epistle 19. 

sPoUock, 406. 



SPINOZA 


175 


You assume that you have at last found the true philoso¬ 
phy. How do you know that your philosophy is the best of 
all those which have ever been taught in the world, are now 
taught, or shall be taught hereafter? To say nothing of 
what may be devised in the future, have you examined all 
those philosophies, both ancient and modern, which are 
taught here, in India, and all tlic world over? And even 
supposing that you have duly examined them, how do }ou 
know that you have chosen the best? . . . How dare you 
set yourself up above all the patriarchs, prophets, apostles, 
martyrs, doctors, and confessors of tlie Church? Miserable 
man and worm upon the earth that you are, yea, ashes and 
food for worms, how can you confront the eternal wisdom 
with your unspeakable blasphemy? What foundation have 
you for this rash, insane, deplorable, accursed doctrine? 
What devilish pride puffs you up to pass judgment on 
mysteries which Catholics themselves declare to be incom¬ 
prehensible? Etc., etc.' 

To which Spinoza replied: 

You who assume that you have at last found the best 
religion, or rather the best teachers, and fixed your 
credulity upon them, how do you know that they are the 
best among those who have taught religions, or now 
teach, or shall hereafter teach them? Have you ex¬ 
amined all those religions, ancient and modern, which are 
taught here, and in India, and all the world over? And 
even supposing that you have duly examined them, how do 
you know that you have chosen the best? “ 

Apparently the gentle philosopher could be firm enough when 
occasion called for it. 

Not all the letters were of this uncomfortable kind. Many 
of them were from men of mature culture and high position. 
Most prominent of these correspondents were Henry Olden¬ 
burg, secretary of the recently established Royal Society of 
England; Von Tschirnhaus, a young German inventor and 

1 Epistle 73. 

2 Epistle 74. 



176 THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 

nobleman; Huygens, the Dutch scientist; Leibnitz the phi¬ 
losopher, who visited Spinoza in 1676; Louis Meyer, a phy¬ 
sician of the Hague; and Simon De Vries, a rich merchant of 
Amsterdam. The latter so admired Spinoza that he begged 
him to accept a gift of $1000. Spinoza refused; and later, 
when De Vries, making his will, proposed to leave his entire 
fortune to him, Spinoza persuaded De Vries instead to be¬ 
queath his wealth to his brother. When the merchant died it 
was found that his will required that an annuity of $S50 
should be paid to Spinoza out of the income of the property. 
Spinoza wished again to refuse saying, “Nature is satisfied 
with little; and if she is, I am also”; but he was at last pre¬ 
vailed upon to accept $150 a year. Another friend, Jan de 
Witt, chief magistrate of the Dutch republic, gave him a state 
annuity of $50. Finally, the Grand Monarch himself, 
Louis XIV, offered him a substantial pension, with the implied 
condition that Spinoza should dedicate his next book to the 
King. Spinoza courteously declined. 

To please his friends and correspondents, Spinoza moved tc 
Voorburg, a suburb of the Hague, in 1665; and in 1670 to 
the Hague itself. During these later years he developed an 
affectionate intimacy with Jan de Witt; and when De Witt 
and his brother were murdered in the streets by a mob which 
believed them responsible for the defeat of the Dutch troops 
by the French in 1672, Spinoza, on being apprised of the 
infamy, burst into tears, and but for the force which was 
used to restrain him, would have sallied forth, a second 
Antony, to denounce the crime on the spot where it had been 
committed. Not long afterward, the Prince de Conde, head 
of the invading French army, invited Spinoza to his head¬ 
quarters, to convey to him the offer of a royal pension from 
France and to introduce certain admirers of Spinoza who 
were with the Prince. Spinoza, who seems to have been rather 
a “good European” than a nationalist, thought it nothing 
strange for him to cross the lines and go to Conde’s camp. 
When he returned to the Hague the news of his visit spread 



SPINOZA 


177 


about, and there were angry murmurs among the people. 
Spinoza’s host, Van den Spyck, was in fear of an attack upon 
his house; but Spinoza calmed him, saying: ‘‘I can easily 
clear myself of all suspicion of treason; . . . but should the 
people show the slightest disposition to molest you, should 
they even assemble and make a noise before your house, I will 
go down to them, though they should serve me as they did 
poor De Witt.” ^ But when the crowd learned that Spinoza 
was merely a philosopher they concluded that he must be harm¬ 
less; and the commotion quieted down. 

Spinoza’s life, as we see it in these little incidents, was not 
as impoverished and secluded as it has been traditionally pic¬ 
tured. He had some degree of economic security, he had in¬ 
fluential and congenial friends, he took an interest in the 
political issues of his time, and he was not without adventures 
that came close to being matters of life and death. That he 
had made his wa}^ despite excommunication and interdict, into 
the respect of his contemporaries, appears from the offer 
which came to him, in 1673, of the chair of philosophy at 
the University of Heidelbe'rg; an offer couched in the most 
complimentary terms, and promising “the most perfect free¬ 
dom in philosophizing, which His Highness feels assured you 
would not abuse calling in question the established religion 
of the state.” Spinoza replied characteristically: 

Honored sir: Had it ever been my wish to undertake the 
duties of a professor in any faculty, my deb»ires would have 
been amply gratified in accepting the position which his 
Serene Highness the Prince Palatine does me the honor to 
offer me through you. The offer, too, is much enhanced 
in value in my eyes by the freedom of philosophizing attached 
to it. . . . But I do not know within what precise limits 
that the same liberty of philosophizing would have to be 
restrained, so that I would not seem to interfere with the 
established religion of the principality. ... You see, there¬ 
fore, honored sir, that I do not look for any higher worldly 

1 Willis, 67. 



178 


THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 


position than that which I now enjoy; and that for love of 
the quiet which I think I cannot otherwise secure, I 
must abstain from entering upon the career of a public 
teacher. . . 

The closing chapter came in 1677. Spinoza was now only 
forty-four, but his friends knew that he liad not many years 
left to him. He had come of consumptive parentage; and 
the comparative confinement in which he had lived, as well as 
the dust-laden atmosphere in w^hich he had labored, were not 
calculated to correct this initial disadvantage. More and 
more he suffered from difficulty in breathing; year by year 
his sensitive lungs decayed. He reconciled himself to an 
early end, and feared only that the book which he had not 
dared to publish during his lifetime w ould be lost or destroyed 
after his death. He placed the MS. in a small writing desk, 
locked it, and gave the key to his host, asking him to transmit 
desk and key to Jan Rieuwxrtz, the Amsterdam publisher, 
when the inevitable should come. 

On Sunday, February 20, the family with whom Spinoza 
lived went to church after receiving his assurance that he was 
not unusually ill. Dr. Meyer alone remained with him. 
When they returned they found the philosopher lying dead 
in the arms of his friend. Many mourned him; for the 
simple folk had loved him as much for his gentleness as the 
learned had honored him for his wisdom. Philosophers and 
magistrates joined the people in following him to his final 
rest; and men of varied faiths met at his grave. 

Nietzsche says somewhere that the last Christian died upon 
the cross. He had forgotten Spinoza. 


n. THE TREATISE ON REL.IGION AND THE STATE 

Let us study his four books in the order in which he wrote 
them. The Tractatus Theologico-Politicus is perhaps the 
least interesting of them to us today, because the movement 
1 Epistle 54. 



SPINOZA 


179 


of higher criticism which Spinoza initiated has made into 
platitudes the propositions for which Spinoza risked his life. 
It is unwise of an author to prove his point too thoroughly; 
his conclusions pass into the currency of all educated minds, 
and his works no longer have that mystery about them which 
draws us ever on. So it has been with Voltaire; and so with 
Spinoza’s treatise on religion and the state. 

The essential principle of the book is that the language 
of the Bible is deliberately metaphorical or allegorical; not 
only because it partakes of the Oriental tendency to high 
literary color and ornament, and exaggerated descriptive ex¬ 
pressions; but because, too, the prophets and the apostles, to 
convey their doctrine by arousing the imagination, were com¬ 
pelled to adapt themselves to the cajjacities and predisposi¬ 
tions of the popular mind. “All Scripture was written 
primarily for an entire people, and secondarily for the whole 
human race; consequently its contents must necessarily be 
adapted, as far as possible, to the understanding of the 
masses.” ^ “Scripture does not explain things by their sec¬ 
ondary causes, but only narrates them in the order and style 
which has most power to move men, and especially uneducated 
men, to devotion. . . . Its object is not to convince the reason, 
but to attract and lay hold of the imagination.” “ Hence the 
abundant miracles and the repeated appearances of God. 
“The masses think that the power and providence of God are 
most clearly displayed by events that are extraordinary, and 
contrary to the conception which they have formed of nature. 
, , . They suppose, indeed, that God is inactive so long as 
nature works in her accustomed order; and vice versa^ that 
the power of nature, and natural causes, are idle so long 
as God is acting; thus they imagine two powers distinct from 
one another, the power of God and the power of nature.”^ 
(Here enters the basic idea of Spinoza’s philosophy—that 

1 Tractatus Theologico-Politicug, ch. 5. 

2 Ch. 6. 



180 


THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 


God and the processes of nature are one.) Men love to believe 
that God breaks the natural order of events for them; so the 
Jews gave a miraculous interpretation of the lengthening of 
the day in order to impress others (and perhaps themselves) 
with the conviction that the Jews were the favorites of God; 
and similar incidents abound in the early history of every 
people.^ Sober and literal statements do not move the 
soul; if Moses had said that it was merely the East wind (as 
we gather from a later passage) that cleared a path for them 
through the Red Sea, it would have made little impression on 
the minds of the masses he was leading. Again, the apostles 
resorted to miracle stories for the same reason that tliey re¬ 
sorted to parables; it was a necessary adaptation to the public 
mind. The greater influence of such men as compared with 
philosophers and scientists is largely attributable to the vivid 
and metaphorical forms of speech which the founders of reli¬ 
gion, by the nature of their mission and their own emotional 
intensity, are driven to adopt. 

Interpreted on this principle, the Bible, says Spinoza, 
contains nothing contrary to reason.^ But interpreted lit¬ 
erally, it is full of errors, contradictions, and obvious im 
possibilities—as that the Pentateuch was written by Moses. 
The more plhlosophical interpretation reveals, through the 
mist of allegory and poetry, the profound thought of great 
thinkers and leaders, and makes intelligible the persistence of 
the Bible and its immeasurable influence upon men. Both 
interpretations have a proper place and function: the people 
will always demand a religion phrased in imagery and haloed 
with the supernatural; if one such form of faith is destroyed 
they will create another. But the philosopher knows that 
God and nature are one being, acting by necessity and ac¬ 
cording to invariable law; it is this majestic Law which he 
will reverence and obey.* He knows that in the Scriptures 

ilbid. 

* Introd. 

«Ch. &. 



SPINOZA 


181 


*‘God is described as a law-giver or prince, and styled just, 
merciful, etc., merely in concession to the understanding of 
the people and their imperfect knowledge; that in reality 
God acts ... by the necessity of his nature, and his 
decrees . . . are eternal trutlis.” ^ 

Spinoza makes no sej)aration hetweer Old and New Testa¬ 
ment, and looks upon the Jewish and tlie Christian religion 
as one, when popular hatred and misunderstandings are laid 
aside, and philosophical interpretation finds the hidden core 
and essence of the rival faiths. “I have often wondered that 
persons who make boast of professing the Christian religion 
—namely, love, joy, peace, temperance, and charity to all 
men—should quarrel with such rancorous animosity, and dis¬ 
play daily toward one another such bitter hatred, that this, 
rather than the virtues which they profess, is the readiest cri¬ 
terion of their faith.” “ The Jews have survived chiefly be¬ 
cause of Christian hatred of them; persecution gave tliern the 
unity and solidarity necessary for continued racial existence; 
without persecution they might have mingled and married 
with the peoples of Europe, and been engulfed in the major¬ 
ities with which they were everyw^here surrounded. But there 
is no reason why the philosophic Jew and the philosophic 
Christian, when all nonsense is discarded, should not agree 
sufficiently in creed to live in peace and cooperation. 

The first step toward this consummation, Spinoza thinks, 
would be a mutual understanding about Jesus. Let improb¬ 
able dogmas be withdrawn, and the Jews would soon recog¬ 
nize in Jesus the greatest and noblest of the prophets. Spi¬ 
noza does not accept the divinity of Christ, but he puts him 
first among men. ‘‘The eternal wisdom of God . . . has 
shown itself forth in all things, but chiefly in the mind of 
man, and most of all in Jesus Christ.” ® “Christ was sent to 
teach not only the Jews, but the whole human race”; hence “he 

JCh. 4. 

2Ch. 6. 

i Epistle 21. 



18^ 


THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 


accommodated himself to the comprehension of the people . . . 
and most often taught by parables.” ^ He considers that the 
ethics of Jesus are almost synonymous with w’isdom; in rever¬ 
encing him one rises to ^‘the intellectual love of God.” So 
noble a figure, freed from the impediment of dogmas that lead 
only to divisions and disputes, would draw all men to him; 
and perhaps in his name a world torn with suicidal wars of 
tongue and sword might find a unity of faith and a possibility 
of brotherhood at last. 

III. THE IMPROVEMENT OF THE INTELLECT 

Opening Spinoza’s next book, we come at the outset upon 
one of the gems of philosophic literature. Spinoza tells why 
he gave up everything for philosophy: 

After experience had taught me that all things which fre¬ 
quently take place in ordinary life are vain and futile, and 
when I saw that all the things I feared, and which feared 
me, had nothing good or bad in them save in so far as the 
mind was affected by them; I determined at last to inquire 
whether there was anything which might be truly good, and 
able to communicate its goodness, and by which the mind 
might be affected to the exclusion of all other things; I 
determined, I say, to inquire whether I might discover and 
attain the faculty of enjoying throughout eternity con¬ 
tinual supreme happiness. ... I could see the many ad¬ 
vantages acquired from honor and riches, and that I should 
be debarred from acquiring these things if I wished seriously 
to investigate a new matter. . . . But the more one pos¬ 
sesses of either of them, the more the pleasure is increased, 
and the more one is in consequence encouraged to increase 
them; whereas if at any time our hope is frustrated, there 
arises in us the deepest pain. Fame has also this great 
draw^back, that if we pursue it we must direct our lives in 
such a way as to please the fancy of men, avoiding what 
they dislike and seeking what pleases them. . . . But the 

iCh. 4. 




SPINOZA 


183 


love towards a thin^ eternal and infinite alone feeds the 
mind with a pleasure secure from all pain. . . . The greatest 
good is tlie knowledge of the union which the mind has with 
the whole of nature. . . . The more the mind knows, the 
better it understands its forces and the order of nature; the 
more it understands its forces or strength, tlie better it will 
be able to direct itself and lay dow’ii tiie rules for itself; and 
the more it understands the order of nature, the more easily 
it will be able to liberate itself from useless things; this is 
the whole method. 

Only knowdedge, then, is power and freedom; and the only 
permanent happiness is the pursuit of knowledge and the joy 
of understanding. Meanwhile, however, the philosopher must 
remain a man and a citizen; what shall be his mode of life 
during his pursuit of truth.^ Spinoza lays down a simple rule 
of conduct to which, so far as we know, his actual behavior 
thoroughly conformed: 

1. To speak in a manner comprehensible to the people, 
and to do for them all things that do not prevent us from 
attaining our ends. . . , 2. To enjoy only such pleasures 
as are necessary for the preservation of health. 3. Finally, 
to seek only enough money ... as is necessary for the 
maintenance of our life and health, and to comply wdth such 
customs as are not opposed to wdiat we seek.^ 

But in setting out upon such a quest, the honest and clear¬ 
headed philosopher comes at once upon the problem: How 
do I know that my knowledge is knowdedge, that my senses 
can be trusted in the material which they bring to my reason, 
and that my reason can be trusted w ith the conclusions which 
it derives from the material of sensation.^ Should we not ex¬ 
amine the vehicle before abandoning ourselves to its direc¬ 
tions? Should w^e not do all that we can to perfect it? ‘‘Be¬ 
fore all things,” says Spinoza, Baconianly, “a nmans must 
be devised for improving and clarifying the intellect.” ^ We 

Emendatione, Everyman edition, p. 231. 

^Ibid. 



X84 


THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 


must distinguish carefully the various forms of knowledge, 
and trust only the best. 

First, then, there is hearsay knowledge, by which, for ex¬ 
ample, I know the day of my birth. Second, vague expe¬ 
rience, ‘‘empirical” knowledge in the derogatory sense, as when 
a physician knows a cure not by any scientific formulation of 
experimental tests, but by a “general impression” that it has 
“usually” worked. Third, immediate deduction, or knowl¬ 
edge reached by reasoning, as when I conclude to the immen¬ 
sity of the sun from seeing that in the case of other objects 
distance decreases the apparent size. This kind of knowl¬ 
edge is superior to the other two, but is j^et precariously sub¬ 
ject to sudden refutation by direct experience; so science for 
a hundred years reasoned its way to an “ether” which is now 
in high disfavor with the physicist elite. Hence the highest 
kind of knowledge is the fourth form, which comes by imme¬ 
diate deduction and direct perception, as when we see at once 
that 6 is the missing number in the proportion, 2:4::3:x; or 
as when we perceive that the whole is greater than the part. 
Spinoza believes that men versed in mathematics know most 
of Euclid in this intuitive way; but he admits ruefully that 
“the things which I have been able to know by this knowledge 
so far have been very few.” ^ 

In the Ethics Spinoza reduces the first two forms of knowl¬ 
edge to one; and calls intuitive knowledge a perception of 
things sub specie eternitatis —in their eternal aspects and rela¬ 
tions,—which gives in a phrase a definition of philosophy. 
Scientia intuitiva, therefore, tries to find behind things and 
events their laws and eternal relations. Hence Spinoza’s very 
fundamental distinction (the basis of his entire system) be¬ 
tween the “temporal order”—^the “world” of things and inci¬ 
dents—and the “eternal order”—the world of laws and struc¬ 
ture. Let us study this distinction carefully: 

It must be noted that I do not understand here by the 

series of causes and real entities a series of individual mutable 


ip. 233. 



SPINOZA 


185 


things, but rather the series of fixed and eternal things. 
For it would be impossible for human weakness to follow 
up the series of individual mutable things, not only because 
their number surpasses all count, but because of the many 
circumstances, in one and the same thing, each of which may 
be the cause of the thing’s existence. For indeed, the exist¬ 
ence of particular things has no connection with their es¬ 
sence, and is not an eternal truth. However, there is vo 
need that we should understand the series of individual 
mutable things, for their essence* ... is only to be found 
in fixed and eternal things, and from the laws inscribed in 
those things as their true codes, according to which all in¬ 
dividual things are made and arranged; nay, these individual 
and mutable things depend so intimately and essentially on 
these fixed ones that without them they can neither exist 
nor be conceived.^ 

If we will keep this passage in mind as y>e study Spinoza’s 
masterpiece, it will itself be clarified, and much in the Ethict 
that is discouragingly complex wdll unravel itself into sinr 
plicity and understanding. 


rv. THE ETHICS 

The most precious production in modern philosophy is cast 
into geometrical form, to make the thought Euclideanly i bar; 
but the result is a laconic obscurity in which every line re¬ 
quires a Talmud of commentary. The Scholastics had formu¬ 
lated their thought so, but never so pithily; and they had been 
helped to clarity by their fore-ordained conclusions. Descartes 
had suggested that philosophy could not be exact until it ex¬ 
pressed itself in the forms of mathematics; but he had never 
grappled with his own ideal. Spinoza came to the suggestion 
with a mind trained in mathematics as the very basis of all 

1 P. 259. Cf. Bacon, Novum Organum, II, 2: “For although nothing exists 
in nature except Individual bodies, exhibiting clear individual effects ac¬ 
cording to particular laws; yet, in each branch ol learning, those very laws— 
their investigation, discovery and development—are the foundation both 
of theory and of practice.” Fundamentally, all philosophers agree. 



186 THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 

rigorous scientific procedure, and impressed with the achieve¬ 
ments of Copernicus, Kepler and Galileo. To our more loosely 
textured minds the result is an exhausting concentration of both 
matter and form; and we are tempted to console ourselves by 
denouncing this philosophic geometry as an artificial chess- 
game of thought in which axioms, definitions, theorems and 
proofs are manipulated like kings and bishops, knights and 
pawns; a logical solitaire invented to solace Spinoza’s loneli¬ 
ness. Order is against the grain of our minds; we prefer to 
follow the straggling lines of fantasy, and to weave our philos¬ 
ophy precariously out of our dreams. But Spinoza had but 
one compelling desire—to reduce the intolerable chaos of the 
world to unity and order. He had the northern hunger for 
truth rather than the southern lust for beauty; the artist in 
him was purely an architect, building a system of thought to 
perfect symmetry and form. 

Again, the modern student will stumble and grumble over 
the terminology of Spinoza. Writing in Latin, he was com¬ 
pelled to express his essentially modern thought in medieval 
and scholastic terms; there was no other language of philos¬ 
ophy which would then have been understood. So he uses 
the term substance where we should write reality or essence; 
perfect where we should write complete; ideal for our object; 
objectively for subjectively^ and formally for objectively. 
These are hurdles in the race, which will deter the weakling 
but will stimulate the strong. 

In short, Spinoza is not to be read, he is to be studied; 
you must approach him as you would approach Euclid, recog¬ 
nizing that in these brief two hundred pages a man has written 
down his lifetime’s thought with stoic sculptury of everything 
superfluous. Do not think to find its core by running over 
it rapidly; never in a work of philosophy was there so little 
that could be skipped without loss. Every part depends upon 
preceding parts; some obvious and apparently needless prop¬ 
osition turns out to be the cornerstone of an imposing develop¬ 
ment of logic. You will not understand any important sec- 



SPINOZA 


187 

tion thoroughly till you have read and pondered the whole; 
though one need not say, with Jacobi’s enthusiastic exaggera¬ 
tion, that ‘‘no one has understood Spinoza to whom a single 
line of the lithics remains obscure.” “Here, doubtless,” 6ays 
Spinoza, in the second part of his book, “tlie reader will be¬ 
come confused, and will recollect many things which will bring 
him to a standstill; and therefore I pra}^ him to proceed gently 
with me and form no judgment concerning these things until 
he shall have read all.” ^ Read the book not all at once, but 
in small portions at many sittings. And having finished it, 
consider that you have but begun to understand it. Read 
then some commentary, like Pollock’s Spinor:a, or Martineau’s 
Study of Spinoza; or, better, both. Finally, read the Ethics 
again; it will be a new book to you. When you have finished 
it a second time you will remain forever a lover of philosophy. 


1. Nature and God 

Page one plunges us at once into tlie maelstrom of meta¬ 
physics. Our modern hard-headed (or is it soft-headed?) 
abhorrence of metaphysics captures us, and lor a moment we 
wish we were anywhere except in S})inoza. But then meta¬ 
physics, as William James said, is nothing but an attempt to 
think things out clearly to their ultimate significance, to find 
their substantial essence in the scheme of reality, —ur, as 
Spinoza puts it, their e 5 »sential substance; and thereby to 
unify all truth and reach that “highest of all generalizations” 
which, even to the practical Englishman,^ constitutes philos¬ 
ophy. Science itself, which so superciliously scorns meta¬ 
physics, assumes a metaphysic in its every thought. It 
happens that the metaphysic which it assumes is the meta¬ 
physic of Spinoza. 

There are three pivotal terms in Spinoza’s system: sub¬ 
stance, attribute, and mode. Attribute we put aside tempo- 

1 Part II, proposition 11, note, 
s* Spencer, First Pnnciplss, Part II, ch. 1. 



188 THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 

rarily, for simplicity’s sake. A mode is any individual thing 
or event, any particular form or shape, which reality tran¬ 
siently assumes; you, your body, your thoughts, your group, 
your species, your planet, are modes; all these are forms, 
modes, almost literally fashions, of some eternal and invari¬ 
able reality lying behind and beneath them. 

What is this underlying reality? Spinoza calls it 8uh' 
stance, as literally that which stands beneath. Eight genera¬ 
tions have fought voluminous battles over the meaning of this 
term; we must not be discouraged if we fail to resolve the mat¬ 
ter in a paragraph. One error we should guard against: 
substance does not mean the constituent material of anything, 
as when we speak of wood as the substance of a chair. We 
approach Spinoza’s use of the word when we speak of “the 
substance of his remarks.” If we go back to the Scholastic 
philosophers from whom Spinoza took the term, we find that 
they used it as a translation of the Greek ousia, which is the 
present participle of einai, to be, and indicates the inner being 
or essence. Substance then is that which is (Spinoza had not 
forgotten the impressive “I am who am” of Genesis) ; that 
which eternally and unchangeably is, and of which everything 
else must be a transient form or mode. If now we compare 
this division of the world into substance and modes with its 
division, in The Improvement of the Intellect, into the eternal 
order of laws and invariable relations on the one hand, and the 
temporal order of time-begotten and death-destined things on 
the other, we are impelled to the conclusion that Spinoza means 
by substance here very nearly what he meant by the eternal 
order there. Let us provisionally take it as one element in 
the term substance, then, that it betokens the very structure 
of existence, underlying all events and things, and constitut¬ 
ing the essence of the world. 

But further Spinoza identifies substance with nature and 
God. After the manner of the Scholastics, he conceives na¬ 
ture under a double aspect: as active and vital process, which 
Spinoza calls natura naturans —nature begetting, the Sian 



SPINOZA 


189 


viial and creative evolution of Bergson; and as the passive 
product of this process, natura naturata —nature begotten, 
the material and contents of nature, its woods and winds and 
waters, its hills and fields and myriad external forms. It is 
in the latter sense that he denies, and in the former sense that 
he affirms, the identity of nature and substance and God. 
Substance and modes, the eternal order and the temporal or¬ 
der, active nature and passive nature, God and the world, 
—all these are for Spinoza coincident and s^^nonymous dichot¬ 
omies; each divides the universe into essence and incident. 
That substance is insubstantial, that it is form and not matter, 
that it has nothing to do with that mongrel and neuter com¬ 
posite of matter and thought which some interpreters have 
supposed it to be, stands out clearly enough from this identifi¬ 
cation of substance with creative but not with passive or ma¬ 
terial nature. A passage from Spinoza’s correspondence may 
help us: 

I take a totally different view of God and Nature from 
that which the later Christians usually entertain, for I hold 
that God is the immanent, and not the extraneous, cause 
of all things. I sixy^ All is in God; all lives and moves in 
God. And this I maintain with the Apostle Paul, and per¬ 
haps with every one of the philosophers of antiquity, al¬ 
though in a way other than theirs. I might even venture 
to say that my view is the same as that entertained by 
the Hebrews of old, if so much may be inferred from cer¬ 
tain traditions, greatly altered or falsified Miough they be. 

It is however a complete mistake on the part of those wdio 
say that my purpose ... is to show that God and Nature, 
under which last term the}’^ understand a certain mass of 
corporeal matter, arc one and the same. I had no such 
intention.^ 

Again, in the Treatise on Religion and the State^ he writes: 
*‘By the help of God I mean the fixed and unchangeable order 
of nature, or the chain of natural events”; - the universal laws 

1 Epistle 21. 

2Ch. 3. 



190 


THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 


of nature and the eternal decrees of God are one and the same 
thing. “From the infinite nature of God all things . . . fol¬ 
low by the same necessity, and in the same way, as it follows 
from the nature of a triangle, from eternity to eternity, that 
its tliree angles ax-e equal to two right angles.” ^ What the 
laws of the circle are to all circles, God is to the world. Like 
substance, God is the causal chain or process,^ the underlying 
condition of all things,® the law and structure of the world.^ 
This concrete universe of modes and things is to God as a 
bridge is to its design, its structure, and the laws of mathe¬ 
matics and mechanics according to which it is built; these are 
the sustaining basis, the underlying condition, the substance, 
of the bridge; without them it would fall. And like the 
bridge, the world itself is sustained by its structure and its 
laws; it is upheld in the hand of God. 

The will of God and the laws of nature being one and 
the same reality diversely phrased,® it follows that all events 
are the mechanical operation of invariable laws, and not the 
whim of an irresponsible autocrat seated in the stars. The 
mechanism which Descartes saw in matter and body alone, 
Spinoza sees in God and mind as well. It is a world of de¬ 
terminism, not of design. Because we act for conscious ends, 
we suppose that all processes have such ends in view; and 
because we are human we suppose that all events lead up to 
man and are designed to subserve his needs. But this is an 
anthropocentric delusion, like so much of our thinking.® The 
root of the greatest errors in philosophy lies in projecting our 
human purposes, criteria and preferences into the objective 
universe. Hence our “problem of evil”: we strive to reconcile 
the ills of life with the goodness of God, forgetting the lesson 

1 Ethics, I, 17, note. 

2Hoffding, History of Moderr^ Philosophy, vol. 1, 

*Martineau, Study of Spinoza; London, 1822, p. 171, 

^Prof. Woodbridge. 

# r. ch. 3. 

^Ethics, Part I, Appendix. 



Si^INOZA 


191 


taught to Job, that God is beyond our little good and evil. 
Good and had are relative to liuirian and often individual 
tastes and ends, and have no validity for a universe in which 
individuals are ephemera, and in which the Moving Finger 
writes even the history of tlie race in water. 

Whenever, then, anything in nature seems to us ridiculous, 
absurd or evil, it is because we ha\e but a partial knowledge 
of tilings, and are in the main ignorant of the order and 
coherence of nature as a whole, and because Ave want every¬ 
thing to be arranged according to tlic dictates of our own 
reason; although in fact, what our reason uronounces bad is 
not bad as regards the order and laws of universal nature, 
but only as regards the laws of our own nature taken 
separately.^ ... As for the terms good and bad^ they 
indicate nothing positive considered in themselves. . . . For 
one and the same thing can at the same time be good, 
bad, and indifferent. J^'or example, music is good to the 
melancholy, bad to mourners, and indifferent to the dead." 

Bad and good are prejudices which the eternal reality can¬ 
not recognize; ‘‘it is right that the world shoidd illustrate the 
full nature of the infinite, and not merely the particular ideals 
of man.’’ ® And as with good and bad, so with the ugly and 
the beautiful; these too are subjective and personal terms, 
which, flung at the universe, Mill be returned to the sender 
unhonored. “I would warn you that I do not attribute to 
nature either beauty or deformity, order or confusion. Only 
in relation to our imagination can things be called beautiful 
or ugly, well-ordered or confused.” ^ ‘"For example, if mo¬ 
tion which the nerves receive by means of the eyes from ob¬ 
jects before us is conducive of health, those objects are called 
beautiful; if it is not, those objects are called ugly.”® In 

1 Tractalns PoUticus, ch. 2. 

^Ethics, IV. pref. 

8 Santayana, Introduction to the Ethics, Everyman ed., p. X3C. 

♦ Epistle 15, ed. Pollock. 

^Ethics, I, App. 



192 THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 

such passages Spinoza passes beyond Plato, who thought that 
his esthetic judgments must be the laws of creation and the 
eternal decrees of God. 

Is God a person.'^ Not in any human sense of this word. 
Spinoza notices ‘‘the popular belief which still pictures God as 
of the male, not of the female sex”; ^ and he is gallant enough 
to reject a conception which mirrored the earthly subordina¬ 
tion of woman to man. To a correspondent who objected to 
his impersonal conception of Deity, Siiinoza writes in terms 
reminiscent of the old Greek sceptic Xenophanes: 

When you say that if I allow not in God the operations 
of seeing, hearing, observing, willing, and the like . . . you 
know not what sort of God mine is, I thence conjecture that 
you believe there is no greater perfection than such as can 
be explained by the attributes aforesaid. I do not wonder 
at it; for I believe that a triangle, if it could speak, would 
in like manner say that God is eminently triangular, and a 
circle that the divine nature is eminently circular; and thus 
would every one ascribe his own attributes to God.^ 

Finally, “neither intellect nor will pertains to the nature ot 
God,” » in the usual sense in which these human qualities are 
attributed to the Deity; but rather the will of God is the sum 
of all causes and all laws, and the intellect of God is the 
sum of all mind. “The mind of God,” as Spinoza conceives 
it, “is all the mentality that is scattered over space and time, 
the diffused consciousness that animates the world.” ^ “All 
things, in however diverse degree, are animated.” ® Life or 
mind is one phase or aspect of everything that we know, as 
material extension or body is another; these are the two phases 
or attributes (as Spinoza calls them) through which we per¬ 
ceive the operation of substance or God; in this sense God— 
the universal process and efttrnal reality behind the flux of 

1 Epistle 58, ed. Willis. 

2 Epistle 60, ed. Willis. 

2 Ethic$, 1, 17, note. 

* Santayana, loc, cit,, p. x, 

^Ethici, II, 13, note. 



SPINOZA 


193 


things—may be said to have both a mind and a body. Nei¬ 
ther mind nor matter is God; but the mental processes and the 
molecular processes which constitute the double history of the 
world—these, and their causes and their laws, are God. 

2. Matter and Mind 

But what is mind, and what is matter? Is the mind mate¬ 
rial, as some unimaginative people suppose; or is the body 
merely an idea, as some imaginative people suppose? Is the 
mental process the cause, or the effect, of the cerebral process? 
—or are they, as Malebranche taught, unrelated and inde¬ 
pendent, and only providentially parallel? 

Neither is mind material, answers Spinoza, nor is matter 
mental; neither is the brain-process the cause, nor is it the 
effect, of thought; nor are the two processes independent and 
parallel. For there are not two processes, and there are not 
two entities; there is but one process, seen now inwardly as 
thought, and now outwardly as motion; there is but one en¬ 
tity, seen now inwardly as mind, now outwardly as matter, 
but in reality an inextricable mixture and unity of both. 
Mind and body do not act upon each other, because they are 
not other, they are one. “The body cannot determine the 
mind to think; nor the mind determine the body to remain in 
motion or at rest, or in any other state,” for the simple reason 
that “the decision of the mind, and the desire and determina¬ 
tion of the body . . . are one and the same thing.” ^ And all 
the world is unifiedly double in this way; wherever there is 
an external “material” process, it is but one side or aspect of 
the real process, which to a fuller view would be seen to include 
as well an internal process correlative, in however different a 
degree, with the mental process which we see within ourselves. 
I'he inward and “mental” process corresponds at every stage 
with the external and “material” process; “the order and con¬ 
nection of ideas is the same as the order and connection of 

t Ethics, III, 2. 



.194) THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 

things.” ^ “Thinking substance and extended substance are 
one and the same thing, comprehended now through this, now 
through that, attribute” or aspect. “Certain of the Jews 
seem to have perceived this, though confusedly, for they said 
that God and his intellect, and the things conceived by his 
intellect, were one and the same thing.” - 

If “mind” be taken in a large sense to correspond with 
the nervous system in all its ramifications, then every change 
in the “body” will be accompanied by—or, better, form a 
whole with—a correlative change in the “mind.” “Just as 
thoughts and mental processes are connected and arranged in 
the mind, so in the body its modifications, and the modifica¬ 
tions of things” affecting the body through sensations, “are 
arranged according to their order”; ® and “nothing can happen 
to the body which is not perceived by the mind,” and con' 
sciously or unconsciously felt.'* Just as the emotion as felt 
is part of a whole, of which changes in the circulatory and 
respiratory and digestive systems are the basis; so an idea is a 
part, along with “bodily” changes, of one complex organic 
process; even the infinitesimal subtleties of mathematical re¬ 
flection have their correlate in the body. (Have not the “be- 
haviorists” proposed to detect a man’s thoughts by recording 
those involuntary vibrations of the vocal cords that seem to 
accompany all thinking?) 

After so trying to melt away the distinction between body 
and mind, Spinoza goes on to reduce to a question of degree 
the difference between intellect and will. There are no “fac¬ 
ulties” in the mind, no separate entities called intellect or will, 
much less imagination or memory; the mind is not an agency 
that deals with ideas, but it is the ideas themselves in their 
process and concatenation.® Intellect is merely an abstract 

HI, 17. 

2 Ibid., note. 

8 V, 1. 

12, 13. 

8 For Spinoza's anticipation of the association theory cf. II, 18, note. 



SPINOZA 


195 


and short-hand term for a series of ideas; and will an abstract 
term for a series of actions or volitions: “the intellect and the 
will are related to this or that idea or volition as rockiness to 
this or that rock.” ^ Finally, ‘Svill and intellect are one and 
the same thing; - for a volition is merely an idea which, by 
richness of associations (or perhaps tlirough the absence of 
competitive ideas), has remained long enough in consciousness 
to pass over into action. Every idea becomes an action un¬ 
less stopped in the transition by a different idea; the idea is 
itself the first stage of a unified organic process of which ex¬ 
ternal action is the completion. 

What is often called will, as the impulsive force which de¬ 
termines the duration of an idea in consciousness, should be 
called desire,—which ‘‘is the very essence of man.” ^ Desire 
is an appetite or instinct of which we arc conscious; but in¬ 
stincts need not always operate through conscious desire.** 
Behind the instincts is tlie vague and varied effort for self- 
preservation (conatiLS sese preservandi ); Spinoza sees this in 
all human and even infra-human activity, just as Schopen¬ 
hauer and Nietzsche w^ere to see the will to live or the wdll to 
power everywhere. Philosophers seldom disagree. 

“Everything, in so far as it is in itself, endeavors to persist 
in its own being; and the endeavor wherewith a thing seeks 
to persist in its own being is nothing else than the actual es¬ 
sence of that thing”; ® the power whereby a thing persists is 
the core and essence of its being. Every instinct is a device 
developed by nature to preserve the individual (or, as our 
solitary bachelor fails to add, the species or the group.) 
Pleasure and pain are the satisfaction or the hindrance of an 
instinct; they are not the causes of our desires, but their 

1 IT, 48, note. 

2 II, 49, corollary. 

8 IV, 18. 

* Spinoza is alive to the power of the “unconscious,” as seen in somnam* 
bulism (II, 2, note); and notes the phenomena of double personality (IV, 
39, note). 

8 in, 6, 7. 



196 


THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 


results; we do not desire things because they give us pleasure; 
but they give us pleasure because we desire them; ^ and we 
desire them because we must. 

There is, consequently, no free will; the necessities of sur¬ 
vival determine instinct, instinct determines desire, and desire 
determines thought and action. ‘‘The decisions of the mind 
are nothing save desires, which vary according to various dis¬ 
positions.” - “There is in the mind no absolute or free will; 
but the mind is determined in willing this or that by a 
cause which is determined in its turn by another cause, and 
this by another, and so on to infinity.” ® “Men think them¬ 
selves free because they are conscious of their volitions and de¬ 
sires, but are ignorant of the causes by which they are led to 
wish and desire.” ^ Spinoza compares the feeling of free will 
to a stone’s thinking, as it travels through space, that it de¬ 
termines its own trajectory and selects the place and time of 
its fall.® 

Since human actions obey laws as fixed as those of geometry, 
psychology should be studied in geometrical form, and with 
mathematical objectivity. “I will write about human beings 
as though I were concerned with lines and planes and sol¬ 
ids.” ® “I have labored carefully not to mock, lament, or ex¬ 
ecrate, but to understand, human actions; and to this end I 
have looked upon passions . . . not as vices of human nature, 
but as properties just as pertinent to it as are heat, cold, 
storm, thunder and tlie like to the nature of the atmosphere.” ^ 
It is this impartiality of approach that gives to Spinoza’s 
study of human nature such superiority that Froude called it 
“the most complete by far which has ever been made by any 
moral philosopher.” ® Taine knew no better way of praising 

1 III, 57. 

2 III, 2, noU. 

8 II, 48. 

♦ I, App. 

5 Epistle 58, ed. Pollock* 

T. T-P., Introd. 

tlbid,, ch. 1* 

^ Short Studies, I, 308. 



SPINOZA 


197 


Beyle’s analysis than to compare it with Spinoza’s; while Jo¬ 
hannes Muller, coming to the subject of the instincts and emo¬ 
tions, wrote: “With regard to the relations of the passions 
to one another apart from their physiological conditions, it is 
impossible to give any better account than that which Spin¬ 
oza has laid down with unsurpassed ninstery,”—and the 
famous physiologist, with the modesty which usually accom¬ 
panies real greatness, went on to quote in extenso the third 
book of the Ethics. It is through that analysis of human 
conduct that Spinoza approaches at last the problems which 
give the title to his masterpiece. 

3. Intelligence and Morals 

Ultimately there are but three systems of ethics, three con¬ 
ceptions of the ideal character and the moral life. One is that 
of Buddha and Jesus, which stresses tlie feminine virtues, con¬ 
siders all men to be equally precious, resists evil only by re¬ 
turning good, identifies virtue with love, and inclines in poli¬ 
tics to unlimited democracy. Another is the clhic of Machia- 
velli and Nietzsche, which stresses the masculine virtues, ac¬ 
cepts the inequality of men, relishes the risks of combat and 
conquest and rule, identifies virtue with power, and exalts an 
hereditary aristocracy. A third, the ethic of Socrates, Plato, 
and Aristotle, denies the universal applicability of either the 
feminine or the masculine virtues; considers that only the in¬ 
formed and mature mind can judge, according to diverse cir¬ 
cumstance, when love should rule, and wlicn power; identifies 
virtue, therefore, with intelligence; and advocates a varying 
mixture of aristocracy and democracy in government. It is 
the distinction of Spinoza that his ethic unconsciously recon¬ 
ciles these apparently hostile philosophies, weaves tliem into a 
harmonious unity, and gives us in consequence a system of 
morals wdiich is the supreme achievement of modern thought. 

He begins by making happiness the goal of conduct; and 
he defines happiness very simply as the presence of pleasure 



198 THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 

and the absence of pain. But pleasure and pain are rela¬ 
tive, not absolute; and they are not states but transitions. 
‘‘Pleasure is man^s transition from a lesser state of perfec¬ 
tion” (i. e., completeness, or fulfillment) “to a greater.” “Joy 
consists in this, that one’s power is increased.” ^ “Pain is 
man’s transition from a greater state of perfection to a lesser. 
I say transition; for pleasure is not perfection itself: if a 
man were born with the perfection to which he passes he 
would be without . . . the emotion of pleasure. And the 
contrary of this makes it still more apparent.” ^ All passions 
are passages, all emotions are motions, towards or from com¬ 
pleteness and power. 

“By emotion (affectus) I understand the modifications ot 
the body by which the power of action in the body is increased 
or diminished, aided or restrained, and at the same time the 
ideas of these modifications.” ^ (This theory of emotion is 
usually credited to James and Lange; it is here formulated 
more precisely than by either of these psychologists, and ac¬ 
cords remarkably with the findings of Professor Cannon.) A 
passion or an emotion is bad or good not in itself, but only as 
it decreases or enhances our power. “By virtue and power 
I mean the same thing”; ^ a virtue is a power of acting, a 
form of ability; ® “the more a man can preserve his being and 
seek what is useful to him, the greater is his virtue.” ® 
Spinoza does not ask a man to sacrifice himself to another’s 
good; he is more lenient than nature. He thinks that ego¬ 
ism is a necessary corollary of the supreme instinct of self- 
preservation; “no one ever neglects anything which he judges 
to be good, except with the hope of gaining a greater good.” 
This seems to Spinoza perfectly reasonable. “Since reason 

iCf. Nietzsche: “What is happiness? The feeling that power increases, 
that resistance is overcome.’’— Antichrist, sect. 2. 

2 III, App. 

sill, def. 8. 

4IV, def. 8. 

• Ill, 55, cor. 2. 

• IV, 20. 

fT. T-P., ch. 10. 



SPINOZA 


199 


demands nothing against nature, it concedes that each man 
must love himself, and seek what is useful to him, and desire 
whatever leads him truly to a greater state of perfection; and 
that each man should endeavor to preserve his being so far 
as in him lies.” ^ So lie builds his ethic not on altruism and 
the natural goodness of man, like utopian reformers; nor on 
selfishness and the natural wickedness of man, like cynical 
conservatives, but on what he considers to lie an inevitable and 
justifiable egoism. A system of morals that teaches a man to 
be weak is worthless; ^Hhe foundation of virtue is no other 
than the effort to maintain one’s being; and man’s happiness 
consists in the jjower of so doing.” - 

Like Nietzsche, Spinoza has not much use for humility;® 
it is cither the hypocrisy of a schemer or the timidity of a 
slave; it implies the absence of power—whereas to Spinoza 
all virtues are forms of ability and power. So is remorse a 
defect rather than a virtue: ^‘he who repents is twice unhappy 
and doubly weak.” ^ But he does not spend so much time as 
Nietzsche in inveighing against humility; for “humility is very 
rare”; ^ and as Cicero said, even the philosopliers who write 
books in its praise take care to put their names on the title- 
page. “One who despises himself is the nearest to a proud 
man,” says Spinoza (putting in a sentence a pet theory of the 
psychoanalysts, that every conscious virtue is an effort to 
conceal or correct a secret vice). And whereas Spinoza dis¬ 
likes humilit}^ he admires modesty, and ob jects to a pride that 
is not “tenoned and mortised” in deeds. Conceit makes men 
a nuisance to one another: “the conceited man relates only 
his own great deeds, and only the evil ones of others”; ® he 
delights in the presence of his inferiors, who will gape at his 
perfections and exploits; and becomes at last the victim of 

1IV, 18 note. 

2 Ibid. 
am, 55. 

UV, 54. 

a III, App., def. 29» 

^Ihid,; and III, 55, note. 



soo 


THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 


those who praise him most; for “none are more taken in by 
flattery than the proud.” ^ 

So far our gentle philosopher offers us a rather Spartan 
ethic; but he strikes in other passages a softer tone. He 
marvels at the amount of envy, recrimination, mutual belittle- 
ment, and even hatred, which agitates and separates men; and 
sees no remedy for our social ills except in the elimination of 
these and similar emotions. He believes it is a simple matter 
to show that hatred, perhaps because it trembles on the verge 
of love, can be more easily overcome by love than by recip¬ 
rocated hate. For hatred is fed on the feeling that it ir 
returned; whereas “he who believes himself to be loved by one 
whom he hates is a prey to the conflicting emotions of hatred 
and love, since (as Spinoza perhaps too optimistically be¬ 
lieves) love tends to beget love; so that his hatred disinte¬ 
grates and loses force. To hate is to acknowledge our 
inferiority and our fear; we do not hate a foe whom we ar^ 
confident we can overcome. “He who wishes to revenge in¬ 
juries by reciprocal hatred will live in misery. But he who 
endeavors to drive away hatred by means of love, fights with 
pleasure and confidence; he resists equally one or many men, 
and scarcely needs at all the help of fortune. Those whom 
he conquers yield joyfully.” ^ “Minds are conquered not by 
arms but by greatness of soul.” ^ In such passages Spinoza 
sees something of the light which shone on the hills of Galilee. 

But the essence of his ethic is rather Greek than Christian. 
“The endeavor to understand is the first and only basis of 
virtue” ^—nothing could be more simply and thoroughly 
Socratic. For “ we are tossed about by external causes in 
many ways, and like waves driven by contrary winds, we 
waver and are unconscious of the issue and our fate.” ® We 
think we are most ourselves when we are most passionate^ 

1IV, App^ def. 21. 

2IV, 45. 

8IV, App., 11. 

4IV, 26. 

• Ill, 59, note. 



SPINOZA 


201 


whereas it is then we are most passive, caught in some ances¬ 
tral torrent of impulse or feeling, and swept on to a precipi¬ 
tate reaction which meets only part of the situation because 
without thought only part of a situation can be perceived. A 
passion is an ‘h’nadequate idea”; thought is response delayed 
till every vital angle of a problem has aroused a correlative 
reaction, inherited or acquired; only so is the idea adequate, 
the response all that it can be.^ The instincts are magnificent 
as a driving force, but dangerous as guides; for by what we 
may call the individualism of the instincts, each of them seeks 
its own fulfilment, regardless of the good of the whole per¬ 
sonality. What havoc has come to men, for example, from 
uncontrolled greed, pugnacity, or lust, till such men have be¬ 
come but the appendages of the instinct that has mastered 
them. ‘^The emotions by which we are daily assailed have 
reference rather to some part of the body which is affected 
beyond the others, and so the emotions as a rule are in excess, 
and detain the mind in the contemplation of one object so that 
it cannot think of others.” - But ^‘desire that arises from 
pleasure or pain which has reference to one or certain parts of 
the body has no advantage to man as a whole.” ^ To be our¬ 
selves we must complete ourselves. 

All this is, of course, the old philosophic distinction between 
reason and passion; but Spinoza adds vitally to Socrates and 
the Stoics. He knows that as passion without reason is blind, 
reason without passion is dead. ^‘An emotion can neither be 
hindered nor removed except by a contrary and stronger 
emotion.” ^ Instead of uselessly opposing reason to passion 
—a contest in which the more deepl}" rooted and ancestral 
element usually wins—he opposes reasonless passions to pas¬ 
sions coordinated by reason, put into place by the total per- 

iTo phrase it in later terms: reflex action is a local response to a local 
stimulus; instinctive action is a partial response to part of a situation; rea* 
son is total response to the whole situation. 

a IV, 44, note. 

8IV, 60. 

*IV, 7, 14. 



THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 


202 

spective of the situation. Thought should not lack the heat of 
desire, nor desire the light of thought. passion ceases 
to be a passion as soon as we form a clear and distinct idea 
of it, and the mind is subject to passions in proportion to 
the number of adequate ideas which it has.” ^ ‘‘All appetites 
are passions only so far as they arise from inadequate ideas; 
they are virtues . . . when generated by adequate ideas”; - 
all intelligent behavior—i. e., all reaction which meets the total 
situation—is virtuous action; and in the end there is no virtue 
but intelligence. 

Spinoza’s ethics flows from his metaphysics: just as reason 
there lay in the perception of law in the chaotic flux of thingSo 
so here it lies in the establishment of law in the chaotic flux 
of desires; there it lay in seeing, here it lies in acting, sub 
specie eternitatis —under the form of eternity; in making per¬ 
ception and action fit the eternal perspective of the whole. 
Thought helps us to this larger view because it is aided by 
imagination, which presents to consciousness those distant ef¬ 
fects of present actions which could have no play upon re¬ 
action if reaction were thoughtlessly immediate. The great 
obstacle to intelligent behavior is the superior vividness of 
present sensations as compared wdth those projected memo¬ 
ries which we call imagination. “In so far as the mind con¬ 
ceives a thing according to the dictates of reason, it will be 
equally affected whether the idea be of anything present, past, 
or future.” ® By imagination and reason we turn experience 
/into foresight; we become the creators of our future, and cease 
f to be the slaves of our past. 

we achieve the only freedom possible to man. The pas¬ 
sivity of passion is “human bondage,” the action of reason is 
human liberty. Freedom is not from causal law or process, 

1 V, 3. 

2 Notice the resemblance >>etween the last two quotations and the psycho¬ 
analytic doctrine that desires are “complexes’' only so long: as we are not 
aware of the precise causes of these desires, and that the first element in 
treatment is therefore an attempt to bring the desire and its causes to coe- 
geiousnesss—to form “adequate ideas” of it and them. 

*IV, 62. 



SPINOZA 


209 


but from partial passion or impulse; and freedom not from 
passion, but from uncoordinated and uncompleted passion. 
We are free only where we know.^ To be a superman is to 
be free not from the restraints of social justice and amenity, 
but from the individualism of the instincts. With this com¬ 
pleteness and integrity comes the equanimity of the wise man; 
not the aristocratic self-complacency of Aristotle’s hero, much 
less the supercilious superiority of Nietzsche’s ideal, but a 
more comradely poise and peace of mind. ‘‘Men who are good 
by reason—i. e., men who, under the guidance of reason, seek 
what is useful to them—desire nothing for themselves which 
they do not also desire for the rest of mankind.” - To be 
great is not to be placed above humanity, ruling others; but 
to stand above the partialities and futilities of uninformed 
desire, and to rule one’s self. 

This is a nobler freedom than that which men call free will; 
for the will is not free, and perhaps there is no “will.” And 
let no one suppose that because he is no longer “free,” he is 
no longer morally responsible for his behavior and the struc¬ 
ture of his life. Precisely because men’s actions are deter¬ 
mined by their memories, society must for its protection form 
its citizens through their hopes and fears into some measure 
of social order and cooperation. All education presupposes 
determinism, and pours into the open mind of youth a store 
of prohibitions which are expected to ])artlcipatc in deter¬ 
mining conduct. “The evil which ensues from evil deeds is 
not therefore less to be feared because it comes of necessity; 
whether our actions are free or not, our motives still are hope 
and fear. Therefore the assertion is false that I would leave 
no room for precepts and commands.” ^ On the contrarj^, 
determinism makes for a better moral life: it teaches us not to 

1 Cf. Professor Dewey: “A pliysiei.iii or engineer is free in his thought 
and his action in the degree in which he knows what he deals with. Possibly 
wc find here the key to any freedom .''—Human Xature and Conduct; New 
York, 1922; p. 303. 

2 IV, 18, note; cf. Whitman: “By God, I will not have anything that hII 
cannot have their counterpart of on the same terms." 

s Epistle 43. 



204 THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 

despise or ridicule any one, or be angry with any one; ^ men 
are ‘^not guilty”; and tliough we punish miscreants, it will 
be without hate; we forgive them because they know not what 
they do. 

Above all, determinism fortifies us to expect and to bear 
both faces of fortune with an equal mind; we remember that 
all things follow by the eternal decrees of God. Perhaps 
^ven it will teach us the “intellectual love of God,” whereby we 
shall accept the laws of nature gladly, and find our fulfillment 
within her limitations. He who sees all things as determined 
cannot complain, though he may resist; for he “perceives 
things under a certain species of eternity,” ^ and he under¬ 
stands that his mischances are not chances in the total scheme; 
that they find some justification in the eternal sequence and 
structure of the world. So minded, he rises from the fitful 
pleasures of passion to the high serenity of contemplation 
which sees all things as parts of an eternal order and develop¬ 
ment; he learns to smile in the face of the inevitable, and 
“whether he comes into his own now, or in a thousand years, 
he sits content.” ^ He learns the old lesson that God is no 
capricious personality absorbed in the private affairs of his 
devotees, but the invariable sustaining order of the universe. 
Plato words the same conception beautifully in the Republic: 
“He whose mind is fixed upon true being has no time to look 
down upon the little affairs of men, or to be filled with jealousy 
and enmity in the struggle against them; his eye is ever di¬ 
rected towards fixed and immutable principles, which he sees 
neither injuring nor injured by one another, but all in order 
moving according to reason; these he imitates, and to these he 
would, as far as he can, conform himself.” “That which 
is necessary,” says Nietzsche, “does not offend me. Amor 
fatV ^—^love of fate—“is the core of my nature.” ® Or Keats: 

1II, end. 

2 II, 44, cor. 2. 

» Whitman. 

A §500. 

^ Ecce Homo, p. 180. It was rather Nietzsche’s hope than his attain* 
ment. 



SPINOZA 


205 


To bear all naked truths, 

And to envisage circumstance, all calm: 

That is the top of sovereignty.^ 

Such a philosophy teaches us to say Yea to life, and even to 
death—“a free man thinks of nothing less than of death; and 
his wisdom is a meditation not on death but on life.” ^ It 
calms our fretted egos with its large perspective; it reconciles 
us to the limitations within which our purposes must be cir¬ 
cumscribed. It may lead to resignation and an Orientally su¬ 
pine passivity; but it is also the indispensable basis of all 
wisdom and all strength. 

4. Religion and Immortality 

After all, as we perceive, Spinoza’s philosophy was an at¬ 
tempt to love even a world in which he was outcast and alone; 
again like Job, he typified his people, and asked how it could 
be that even the just man, like the chosen people, should suffer 
persecution and exile and every desolation. For a time the 
conception of the world as a process of impersonal and invar¬ 
iable law soothed and sufficed him; but in the end his essen¬ 
tially religious spirit turned this mute process into something 
almost lovable. He tried to merge his own desires with the 
universal order of things, to become an almost indistinguish¬ 
able part of nature. ‘‘The greatest good is the know^ledge of 
the union which the mind has with the whole nature.” ^ In¬ 
deed, our individual separateness is in a sense illusory; we are 
parts of the great stream of law and cause, parts of God; we 
are the flitting forms of a being greater than ourselves, and 
endless while we die. Our bodies are cells in the body of the 
race, our race is an incident in the drama of life; our minds 
are the fitful flashes of an eternal light. “Our mind, in so far 
as it understands, is an eternal mode of thinking, which is 
determined by another mode of thinking, and this one again 

^Hyperion, II, 203. 

2 Ethics, IV, 67. 

Emendatione, p. 230. 



S06 


THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 


by another, and so on to infinity; so that they all constitute at 
the same time the eternal and infinite intellect of God.” ^ In 
this pantheistic merging of the individual with the All, the 
Orient speaks again: we hear the echo of Omar, who “never 
called the One two,” and of the old Hindu poem: “Know in 
thyself and All one self-same soul; banisli the dream that sun¬ 
ders part from whole.” - “Sometimes,” said Thoreau, “as I 
drift idly on Walden Pond, I cease to live and begin to be.” 

As such parts of such a whole we are immortal. “The hu¬ 
man mind cannot be absolutely destroyed with the human 
body, but there is some part of it which remains eternal.” * 
This is the part that conceives things sub specie eternitatis; 
the more we so conceive things, the more eternal our thought 
is, Spinoza is even more than usually obscure here; and after 
endless controversy among interpreters his language yet 
speaks differently to different minds. Sometimes one imag¬ 
ines him to mean George Eliot’s immortality by repute, 
whereby that which is most rational and beautiful in our 
thought and our lives survives us to have an almost timeless 
efficacy down the years. Sometimes again Spinoza seems to 
have in mind a personal and individual immortality; and it 
may be that as death loomed up so prematurely in his path 
he yearned to console himself with this hope that springs eter¬ 
nally in the human breast. Yet he insistently differentiates 
eternity from everlastingness: “If we pay attention to the 
common opinion of men, we shall see that they are conscious 
of the eternity of their minds; but they confuse eternity with 
duration, and attribute it to imagination or memory, which 
they believe will remain after death.” ** But like Aristotle, 
Spinoza, though talking of immortality, denies the survival of 
personal memory. “The mind can neither imagine nor recol¬ 
lect anything save while in the body,” ® Nor does he believe 

Ethics, V, 40, note. 

2 In Pollock, 169, 145. 

^Ethics, V, 23. 

.♦V, 84, note, 

3V, 21. 



SPINOZA 


207 


in heavenly rewards: ‘‘Those are far astray from a true es¬ 
timate of virtue who expect for their virtue, as if it were tlie 
greatest slavery, that God will adorn them with the greatest 
rewards; as if virtue and the serving of God were not hap¬ 
piness itself and the greatest liberty.” ^ “Blessedness,” reads 
the last proposition of Spinoza’s book, “is not the reward of 
virtue, but virtue itself.” And perhaps in the like manner, im¬ 
mortality is not the reward of clear thinking, it is clear 
thought itself, as it carries up the past into the present and 
reaches out into the future, so overcoming the limits and nar¬ 
rowness of time, and catching the perspective tliat remains 
eternally behind the kaleidoscope of change; such thought is 
immortal because every truth is a permanent creation, part 
of the eternal acquisition of man, influencing him endlessly. 

With this solemn and hopeful note the Ethics ends. Sel¬ 
dom has one book enclosed so much thought, and fathered so 
much commentary, while yet remaining so bloody a battle¬ 
ground for hostile interpretations. Its metaphysic may be 
faulty, its psychology imperfect, its theology unsatisfactory 
and obscure; but of the soul of the book, its spirit and essence, 
no man who has read it will speak otherwise than reverently. 
In the concluding paragraph that essential spirit shines forth 
in simple eloquence: 

Thus I have completed all I wished to show concerning 
the power of the mind over emotions, or the freedom of the 
mind. From which it is clear how' much a wise man is in 
front of and how stronger he is than an ignorant one, who 
is guided by lust alone. For an ignorant man, besides being 
agitated in many w’ays by external causes, never enjoys one 
true satisfaction of the mind: he lives, moreover, almost 
unconscious of himself, God, and things, and as soon as he 
ceases to be passive, ceases to be. On the contrary the wise 
man, in so far as he is considered as such, is scarcely moved 
in spirit; he is conscious of himself, of God, and things by 
a certain eternal necessity; he never ceases to be, and always 
enjoys satisfaction of mind. If the road I have shown to 
III, 49, note. 



208 


THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 


lead to this is very difficult, it can yet be discovered. And 
clearly it must be very hard when it is so seldom found. 
For how could it be that it is neglected practically by all, 
if salvation were close at hand and could be found without 
difficulty? But all excellent things are as difficult as they 
are rare. 


V. THE POLITICAL. TREATISE 

There remains for our analysis that tragic torso, the Trac^ 
tattis Politicus^ the w ork of Spinoza’s maturest years, stopped 
suddenly short by his early death. It is a brief thing, and 
yet full of thought; so that one feels again how much w^as 
lost when this gentle life w^as closed at the very moment that it 
was ripening to its fullest powers. In the same generation 
which saw Hobbes exalting absolute monarchy and denouncing 
the uprising of the English people against their king almost 
as vigorously as Milton was defending it, Spinoza, friend of 
the republican Dc Witts, formulated a political philosophy 
which expressed the liberal and democratic hopes of his day in 
Holland, and became one of the main sources of that stream 
of thought which culminated in Rousseau and the Revolution. 

All political philosophy, Spinoza thinks, must grow out of 
a distinction between the natural and the moral order—^that 
is, between existence before, and existence after, the formation 
of organized societies. Spinoza supposes that men once lived 
in comparative isolation, without law or social organization; 
there were then, he says, no conceptions of right and wrong, 
justice or injustice; might and right were one. 

Nothing can exist in a natural state which can be called 
good or bad by common assent, since every man who is in 
a natural state consults only his own advantage, and de¬ 
termines what is good or bad according to his own fancy 
and in so far as he has regard for his own advantage alone, 
and holds himself responsible to no one save himself by any 
law; and therefore sin cannot be conceived in a natural state, 
but only in a civil state, where it is decreed by common 



SPINOZA 


209 


consent what is good or bad, and each one holds himself 
responsible to the state.^ . . . The law and ordinance of 
nature under which all men are born, and for the most part 
live, forbids nothing but what no one wishes or is able to 
do, and is not opposed to strife, hatred, anger, trcacliery, 
or, in general, anything that appetite suggests.^ 

We get an inkling of this law' of nature, or this lawlessness 
of nature, by observing the behavior of states; “there is no al¬ 
truism among nations,’’ ® for there can be law and morality 
only where there is an accepted organization, a common and 
recognized authority. The “rights” of states are now w'hat 
the “rights” of individuals used to be (and still often are) , 
that is, they are mights, and the leading states, by some for¬ 
getful honesty of diplomats, are very properly called the 
“Great Powers.” So it is too among species: there being 
no common organization, there is not among them any mo¬ 
rality or law; each species does to the other what it wishes 
and can.'* 

But among men, as mutual needs begets mutual aid, this 
natural order of powers passes into a moral order of rights. 
“Since fear of solitude exists in all men, because no one in 
solitude is strong enough to defend himself and procure the 
necessaries of life, it follow's that men by nature tend towards 
social organization.” ^ To guard against danger “the force 
or strength of one man w'ould hardly suffice if men did not 
arrange mutual aid and exchange.” ^ Men are not by nature, 
however, equipped for tlie mutual forbearance of social order; 
but danger begets association, which gradually nourishes and 
strengthens the social instincts: “men are not born for citizen¬ 
ship, but must be made fit for it.” ^ 

Most men are at heart individualistic rebels against law or 

1 EthieSy IV, 37, note 2. 

2 Tractatus Politicus, ch. 2. 
c Bismarck. 

^Ethics, IV, 37, note 1; and App., 27. 

» T. T-P.y ch. 6. 

• Ethics, IV, App., 28. 

» T. P., ch. 5. 



210 THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 

custom: the social instincts are later and weaker than the in¬ 
dividualistic, and need reinforcement; man is not ‘‘good by 
nature,” as Rousseau was so disastrously to suppose. But 
through association, if even merely in the family, sympathy 
comes, a feeling of kind, and at last of kindness. We like 
what is like us; “we pity not only a tiling we have loved, but 
also one which we judge similar to ourselves”;^ out of this 
comes an “imitation of emotions,” - and finally some degree 
uf conscience. Conscience, however, is not innate, but ac¬ 
quired ; and varies with geography.® It is the deposit, in the 
mind of the growing individual, of the moral traditions of the 
group; through it society creates for itself an ally in the heart 
of its enemy—the naturally individualistic soul. 

Gradually, in this development, it comes about that the law 
of individual power which obtains in a state of nature, yields 
in organized society to the legal and moral power of the whole. 
Might still remains right; but the might of the whole limits 
the might of the individual—limits it theoretically to his 
rights, to such exercise of his powers as agrees with the equal 
freedom of others. Part of the individual’s natural might, or 
sovereignty, is handed over to the organized community, in re¬ 
turn for the enlargement of the sphere of his remaining 
powers. We abandon, for example, the right to fly from 
anger to violence, and are freed from the danger of such 
violence from others. Law is necessary because men are sub¬ 
ject to passions; if all men were reasonable, law would be 
superfluous. The perfect law would bear to individuals the 
same relation which perfect reason bears to passions: it would 
be the coordination of conflicting forces to avoid the ruin and 
increase the power of the whole. Just as, in metaphysics, 
reason is the perception of order in things, and in ethics the 
establishment of order among desires, so in politics it is the 
establishment of order among men. The perfect state would 

1 Fthfcs TIT, 22, note. 

2 Jfnd., 27, note 1. 

s III, App., 27. 



SPINOZA 


211 


limit the powers of its citizens only as far as these powers were 
mutually destructive; it would withdraw no liberty except to 
add a greater one. 

The last end of the state is not to dominate men, nor to 
restrain them by fear; rather it is so to free each man from 
fear that he may live and act with full security and without 
injury to himself or his neighbor. The end of the state, I 
repeat, is not to make rational beings into brute beasts and 
machines. It is to enable their bodies and their minds to 
function safely. It is to lead men to live by, and to exercise, 
a free reason; that they may not waste their strength in 
hatred, anger and guile, nor act unfairly" toward one an¬ 
other. Thus the end of the state is really liberty.^ 

Freedom is the goal of the state because the function of 
the state is to promote grovvth, and growth depends on 
capacity finding freedom. But what if laws stifle growth and 
freedom.^ What shall a man do if the state, seeking, like 
every organism or organization, to preserve its own existence 
(which ordinarily means that office-holders seek to keep them¬ 
selves in office), becomes a mechanism of domineering and 
exploitation? Obey even the unjust law, answers Spinoza, 
if reasonable protest and discussion are allowed and sj^eech is 
5eft free to secure a peaceful change. “I confess that from 
such freedom inconveniences may sometimes arise; but vvhat 
question was ever settled so wisely that no abuses could spring 
therefrom?”- Laws against free speech are subversive of 
all law; for men will not long respect laws wliich they may 
not criticize. 

The more a government strives to curtail freedom of 
peech, the more obstinately is it resisted; not indeed by the 
avaricious, . . . but by those whom good education, sound 
morality, and virtue have rendered more free. Men in gen^ 
eral are so constituted that there is nothing they will endure 
with so little patience as that views which they believe 

1 T. T-P., ch. 20. 

^Ihid. 



212 


THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 


to be true should be counted crimes against the laws. . • « 
Under such circumstances they do not think it disgraceful, 
but most honorable, to hold the laws in abhorrence, and to 
refrain from no action against the government.^ . . . Laws 
which can be broken without any wrong to one’s neighbor 
are counted but a laughing-stock; and so far from such 
laws restraining the appetites and lusts of mankind, 
they rather heighten them. Nitimur in vetitum semper^ 
cupimusque negaia,^ 

And Spinoza concludes like a good American constitution¬ 
alist: ‘Tf actions only could be made the ground of criminal 
prosecutions, and words were alw^ays allowed to pass free, 
sedition w^ould be divested of every semblance of justifica¬ 
tion.” ® 

The less control the state has over the mind, the better 
for both the citizen and the state. Spinoza, while recogniz¬ 
ing the necessity of the state, distrusts it, knowing that power 
corrupts even the incorruptible (was this not the name of 
Robespierre.?^) ; and he does not look with equanimity upon 
the extension of its authority from the bodies and actions to 
the souls and thoughts of men; that would be the end tf 
growrth and the death of the group. So he disapproves of 
state control of education, especially in the universities: 
‘‘Academies that are founded at the public expense are in¬ 
stituted not so much to cultivate men’s natural abilities as 
to restrain them. But in a free commonw^calth arts and 
sciences will be better cultivated to the full if every one that 
asks leave is allowed to teach publicly, at his own cost and 
risk.” ^ How to find a middle w^ay between universities 
controlled by the state and universities controlled by private 
wealth, is a problem which Spinoza does not solve; private 
wealth had not in his day grown to such proportions as to 

1 Ibid. 

2 r. P., ch. 10. (“We always resist prohibitions, and yearn for what is 
denied us.”) 

« T. T-P., pref. 

* r. P., ch. 8. 



SPINOZA 


213 


suggest the difficulty. His ideal, apparently, was higher 
education such as once flourished in Greece, coming not from 
institutions but from free individuals—‘^Sophists”—who 
traveled from city to city and taught independently of either 
public or private control. 

These things premised, it makes no great difference what 
is the form of government; and Spinoza expresses only a 
mild preference for democracy. Any of the traditional 
political forms can be framed ‘‘so that every man . . . may 
prefer public right to private advantage; this is the task’^ of 
the law-giver ^ Monarchy is efficient, but oppressive and 
militaristic. 

Experience is thought to teach that it makes for peace 
and concord to confer the ^"hole authority on one man. 
For no dominion has stood so long without any notable 
change as that of the Turks; and on the other hand there 
were none so little lasting as those which were popular or 
democratic, nor any in which so many seditions arose. Yet 
if slavery, barbarism and desolation are to be called peace, 
men can have no worse misfortune. No doubt there are 
usually more and shar])cr quarrels between parents and 
children, than between masters and slaves; yet it advances 
not the art of household management to change a father’s 
right into a right of property, and count children but as 
slaves. Slavery, then, and not peace, is furthered by hand¬ 
ing over the whole authority to one man.^ 

To which he adds a word on secret diplomacy: 

It has been the one song of those who thirst after ab¬ 
solute power that the interest of the state requires that its 
affairs should be conducted in secret. . . . But the more 
such arguments disguise themselves under the mask of public 
welfare, the more oppressive is the slavery to which they 
will lead. . . . Better that right counsels be known to enemies 
than that the evil secrets of tyrants should be concealed 

1T. r-P., ch. 17. 
tT. P., ch. 6. 



S14 


THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 


from the citizens. They who can treat secretly of the 
affairs of a nation have it absolutely under their authority; 
and as they plot against the enemy in time of war, so do they 
against the citizens in time of peace.^ 

Democracy is the most reasonable form of government; for 
in it “every one submits to the control of authority over his 
actions, but not over liis judgment and reason; i. e., seeing 
that all cannot think alike, the voice of the majority has the 
force of law.” ^ The military basis of this democracy should 
be universal military service, the citizens retaining their arms 
during peace; ® its fiscal basis should be the single tax.^ The 
defect of democracy is its tendency to put mediocrity into 
power; and there is no way of avoiding this except by 
limiting office to men of “trained skill.” ® Numbers by them¬ 
selves cannot produce wisdom, ajid may give the best favors 
of oflSce to the grossest flatterers. “The fickle disposition of 
the multitude almost reduces those who have experience of it 
to despair; for it is governed solely by emotions, and not by 
reason.” ® Thus democratic government becomes a procession 
of brief-lived demagogues, and men of worth are loath to enter 
lists where they must be judged and rated by their inferiors.'^ 
Sooner or later the more capable men rebel against such a 
system, though they be in a minority. “Hence I think it is 
that democracies change into aristocracies, and these at length 
Into monarchies”; ® people at last prefer tyranny to chaos. 
Equality of power is an unstable condition; men are by nature 
unequal; and “he who seeks equality between unequals seeks 

1 T. P., ch. 7. 

2 T. T-P., ch. 20. 

« T. P., ch. 7. 

♦ “The fields and the whole soil, and (if it can be managed) tW houses, 
should be public property, ... let at a yearly rental to the citize'i; . . . and 
with this exception let them all be free from every kind of taxation in time of 
peace.”— T. P., ch. 6. 

» T, T-P,, ch. 13. 

ilbid., ch. 17. 

^Ethics, IV, 58, note. 

P., ch. 8. 



SPINOZA 


215 


an absurdity,” Democracy has still to solve the problem of 
enlisting the best energies of men while giving to all alike 
the choice of tliose, among the trained and fit^ by whom tliey 
wish to be ruled. 

Wlio knows what light the genius of Spinoza might have 
cast upon this pivotal problem of modern politics had he 
been spared to complete his work? But even that which we 
have of this treatise was but the first and imperfect draft of 
his thought. While wTiting the chapter on democracy he died. 

VI. THE INFLUENCE OF SPINOZA 

^^Spinoza did not seek to found a sect, and he founded 
none”;^ yet all philosophy after him is permeated with his 
thought. During the generation that followed his death, his 
name was held in abhorrence; even Hume spoke of his 
‘‘hideous hypothesis”; “people talked of Spinoza,” said Les- 
sing, “as if he wxre a dead dog.” 

Ib was Lessing who restored him to repute. The great 
critic surprised Jacobi, in their famous conversation in 1784,- 
by saying that he liad been a Spinozist throughout his mature 
life, and affirming that “there is no other philosophy than 
that of Spinoza.” His love of Spinoza had strengthened his 
friendship with Moses Mendelssohn; and in his great l»la\\ 
Nathan dcr Weise^ he poured into one mould that conception 
of the ideal Jew which had come to him from the living mer¬ 
chant and the dead philosopher. A few years later Herder’s 
Eintge Gesprdche iiher Spinoza s System turned the attention 
of liberal theologians to the Ethics; Schleiermacher, leader 
of this school, wrote of “the holy and excommunicated 
Spinoza,” w^hile the Catholic poet, Novalis, called him “the 
god-intoxicated man.” 

Meanwhile Jacobi had brought Spinoza to the attention of 
Goethe; the great poet was converted, he tells us, at the first 

1 Pollock, 79. 

sprinted in full in Willis. 



«16 THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 

reading of the Ethics; ^ it was precisely the philosophy for 
which his deepening soul had yearned; henceforth it pervaded 
his poetry and his prose. It was here that he found the lesson 
doss wir entsagen sollen —that v/e must accept the limitations 
which nature puts upon us; and it was partly by breathing the 
calm air of Spinoza that he rose out of the wild romanticism 
of Gotz and Wertlier to the classic poise of his later life. 

It was by combining Spinoza with Kant’s epistemology that 
Fichte, Schelling and Hegel reached their varied pantheisms; 
it was from the conatus sese preservandU the effort to preserve 
one’s self, that Fichte’s Ich was born, and Schopenhauer’s 
‘‘will to live,” and Nietzsche’s “will to power,” and Bergson’s 
elan vitah Hegel objected that Spinoza’s system was too 
lifeless and rigid; he was forgetting this dynamic element of 
it and remembering only that majestic conception of God as 
law which he appropriated for his “Absolute Reason.” But 
he was honest enough when he said, “To be a philosopher one 
must first be a Spinozist.” 

In England the influence of Spinoza rose on the tide of the 
Revolutionary movement; and young rebels like Coleridge and 
Wordsworth talked about “Spy-nosa” (which the spy set by 
the government to watch them took as a reference to his own 
nasal facilities) with the same ardor that animated the con¬ 
versation of Russian intellectuals in the halcyon days of Y 
Narod. Coleridge filled his guests with Spinozist table-talk; 
and Wordsworth caught something of the philosopher’s thought 
in his famous lines about 

Something 

Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns, 

And the round ocean, and the living air, 

And the blue sky, and in the mind of man;— 

A motion and a spirit, which impels 

All thinking things, all objects of all thought, 

And rolls through all things. 

1 Brandes, Main CurrentM in Nineteenth Century Literature; New York, 
1905; voL vi, p. 10. Cf. Brandes, Wolfgang Qoethe; New York, 1924; vol. I, 
pp. 432-7. 



SPINOZA 


217 


Shelley quoted the Treatise on Religion and the State in the 
original notes to Queen Mob, and began a translation of it 
for which Byron promised a preface. A fragment of this 
MS. came into the hands of C. S. Middleton, who took it for 
a work of Shelley’s own, and called it “school-boy specula¬ 
tion . . . too crude for publication entire.” In a later and 
tamer age George Eliot translated the Ethics^ though she 
never published the translation; and one may suspect that 
Spencer’s conception of the Unknowable owes something to 
Spinoza through his intimacy with the novel“There are 
not wanting men of eminence of the present day,” says Bel¬ 
fort Bax, “who declare that in Spinoza is contained the fulness 
of modern science.” 

Perhaps so many were influenced by Spinoza because he 
lends himself to so many interpretations, and yields new 
riches at every reading. All profound utterances have varied 
facets for diverse minds. One may say of Spinoza what 
Ecclesiastes said of Wisdom: “The first man knew him not 
perfectly, no more shall the last find him out. For his 
thoughts are more than the sea, and his counsels profounder 
than the great deep.” 

On the second centenary of Spinoza’s death subscriptions 
were collected for the erection of a statue to him at the 
Hague. Contributions came from every corner of the edu¬ 
cated world; never did a monument rise upon so wide a 
pedestal of love. At the unveiling in 1882 Ernest Renan 
concluded his address with words which may fitly conclude also 
our chapter: “Woe to him who in passing should hurl an 
insult at this gentle and pensive head. He would be punished, 
as all vulgar souls are punished, hy his very vulgarity, and by 
his incapacity to conceive what is divine. This man, from 
his granite pedestal, will point out to all men the way of 
blessedness which he found; and ages hence, the cultivated 
traveler, passing by this spot, will say in his heart, ‘The truest 
vision ever had of God came, perhaps, here.’ ” ^ 

1 Ethici, Everyman ed., Introd., xxii, note. 



CHAPTER V 


VOLTAIRE AND THE FRENCH ENLIGHTENMENT 


I. PARIS: CEDIPE 


A t Paris in 1742 Voltaire was coaching Mile. Duraes- 
nil to rise to tragic heights in a rehearsal of his play 
Merope. She complained that she would have to 
have “the very devil” in her to simulate such passion as he 
required. “That is just it,” answered Voltaire; “you must 
have the devil in you to succeed in any of the arts.” ^ Even 
his critics and his enemies admitted that he himself met this 
requirement perfectly. “II avait le diablc au corps —he had 
the devil in his body,” said Sainte-Beuve; “ and I)e Maistre 
called him the man “into whose hands hell had given ail its 
powers.” ® 

Unprepossessing, ugly, vain, flippant, obscene, unscrupu¬ 
lous, even at times dishonest,—^Voltaire was a man with the 
faults of his time and place, missing hardly one. And yet 
this same Voltaire turns out to have been tirelessly kind, con¬ 
siderate, lavish of his energy and his purse, as sedulous in 
helping friends as in crushing enemies, able to kill with a 
stroke of his pen and yet disarmed by the first advance of 
conciliation;—so contradictory is man. 

But all these qualities, good and bad, were secondary, not 
of the essence of Voltaire; the astounding and basic thing in 
him was the inexliaustible fertility and brilliance of his mind. 
His works fill ninety-nine volumes, of which every page is 
sparkling and fruitful, though they range from subject to 

iTallentyre, Life of Voltaire; third edition; p. 

^Portraits of the Eighteenth Ceniturg; New York, 1905; vol. i, p. 196, 
^Brandes, Main Currents in Nineteenth Century Literature; vol. iii, p. 107| 

218 



VOLTAIRE 


219 


subject across the world as fitfully and bravely as in an 
encyclopedia. ‘^My trade is to say what I think”: ^ and what 
he thought was always worth saying, as what he said was 
always said incomparably wxll. If we do not read him now 
(though men like Anatole France have been formed to sub¬ 
tlety and wisdom by poring over his pages), it is because the 
theological battles which he fouglit for us no longer interest 
us intimately ; we have passed on perhaps to other battle-fields, 
and are more absorbed with tlie economics of this life than 
with tlie geography of the next; the very tlioroughness of 
Voltaire’s victory over ecclesiasticism and superstition makes 
dead those issues which he found alive. Much of his fame, 
too, came of his inimitable conversation; but scripta manent^ 
verba volant —written words remain, while spoken words fly 
aw^ay, the winged words of Voltaire with the rest. What is 
left to us is too much the flesh of Voltaire, too little the divine 
fire of his spirit. And yet, darkly as we see him through 
the glass of time, what a spirit!—‘‘sheer intelligence trans¬ 
muting anger into fun, fire into light”; - “a creature of air 
and flame, the most excitable that ever lived, composed of 
more ethereal and more throbbing atoms than those of other 
men; there is none whose mental machinery is more delicate, 
nor whose equilibrium is at the same time more shifting and 
more exact.” ^ Was he, perhaps, the greatest intellectual 
energy in all history 

Certainly he worked harder, and accomplished more, than 
any other man of his epoch. ‘‘Not to be occupied, and not 
to exist, amount to the same thing,” he said. “All people are 
good except those who are idle.” His secretary said that he 
was a miser only of his time.^ “One must' give one’s self all 
the occupation one can to make life supportable in this 
world. . . . The further I advance in age, the more I find 
work necessary. It becomes in the long run the greatest of 

Tallentyre, p. 32. 

2J. M. Robertson, Voltaire; London, 1922; p. 67, 

sTaine, The Ancient R^tjime; New York, 1876; p. 262. 

Voltaire. Romances; New York, 1889; p. 12. 



THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 


220 

pleasures, and takes the place of the illusions of life.” ^ “If 
you do not want to commit suicide always have something 
to do.” " 

Suicide must have been forever tempting him, for he was 
ever at work. “It was because he was so thoroughly alive that 
he filled the whole era with his life.” •* Contemporary with 
one of the greatest of centuries (1694—1778), he was the soul 
and essence of it. “To name Voltaire,” said Victor Hugo, 
“is to characterize the entire eighteenth century.” * Italy 
had a Renaissance, and Germany had a Reformation, but 
France had Voltaire; he was for his country both Renaissance 
and Reformation, and half the Revolution. He carried on 
the antiseptic scepticism of Montaigne, and the healthy earthy 
humor of Rabelais; he fought superstition and corruption 
more savagely and effectively than Luther or Erasmus, Calvin 
or Knox or Melanchthon; he helped to make the powder with 
which Mirabeau and Marat, Danton and Robespierre blew 
up the Old Regime. “If we judge of men by what they have 
done,” said Lamartine, “then Voltaire is incontestably the 
greatest writer of modern Europe. . . . Destiny gave him 
eighty-three years of existence, that he might slowly de¬ 
compose the decayed age; he had the time to combat time; 
and when he fell he was the conqueror.” ® 

No, never has a writer had in his lifetime such influence. 
Despite exile, imprisonment, and the suppression of almost 
every one of his books by the minions of church and state, 
he forged fiercely a path for his truth, until at last kings, 
popes and emperors catered to him, thrones trembled before 
him, and half the world listened to catch his every word. It 
was an age in which many things called for a destroyer. 
“Laughing lions must come,” said Nietzsche; well, Voltaire 


1 In Sainte-Beuve, i, 226. 

*Tallentyre, 93. 

• Morley, Voltaire; London, 1878; p. 14. 
** Centenary address on Voltaire. 

^ Romances^ pp. vi and ix. 



VOLTAIRE 221 

came, and ‘^annihilated with laughter.” ^ He and Rousseau 
were the two voices of a vast process of economic and political 
transition from feudal aristocracy to the rule of the middle 
class. When a rising class is inconvenienced by existing law 
or custom it appeals from custom to reason and from law to 
nature—just as conflicting desires in the individual sparkle 
into thought. So the wealthy bourgeoisie supported the 
rationalism of Voltaire and the naturalism of Rousseau: it 
was necessary to loosen old habits and customs, to renovate 
and invigorate feeling and thought, to open the mind to 
experiment and change, before tlie great Revolution could 
come. Not that Voltaire and Rousseau were the causes of 
the Revolution; perhaps rather they were co-results with it 
of the forces that seethed and surged beneath the political and 
social surface of French life; they were the accompanying 
light and brilliance of the volcanic heat and conflagration. 
Philosophy is to history as reason is to desire: in either case 
an unconscious process determines from below the conscious 
thought above. 

Yet we must not bend back too far in attempting to correct 
the philosopher’s tendeixcy to exaggerate the influence of 
philosophy. Louis XVI, seeing in his Temple prison the 
works of Voltaire and Rousseau, said, ‘‘Those two men have 
destroyed France,” -—meaning his dynast}". “The Bourbons 
might have preserved themselves,” said Napoleon, “if they had 
controlled writing materials. The advent of cannon killed 
the feudal system; ink will kill the modern social organiza¬ 
tion.”^ “Books rule the world,” said Voltaire, “or at least 
those nations in it which have a written language; the others 
do not count.” “Nothing enfranchises like education”;— 
and he proceeded to enfranchise France. “When once a 
nation begins to think, it is impossible to stop it.” ^ But 
with Voltaire, France began to think. 

1 Brandos, 57. 

2Tttllcntyre, 526. 

»Bertaut, Napoleon in His Own Words; Chicago, 1916; p. 63. 

*4 Tallentyre, lOL 



822 THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 

“Voltaire,” that is to say, Fran 9 ois Marie Arouet, was 
bom at Paris in 1694*, the son of a comfortably successful 
notary and a somewhat aristocratic mother. He owed to 
his father, perhaps, his shrewdness and irascibility, and to 
his mother something of his levity and wit. He came into the 
world, so to speak, by a narrow margin: his mother did not 
survive his birth; and he was so puny and sickly an infant 
that the nurse did not give him more than a day to live. She 
was slightly in error, as he lived almost to eighty-four; but 
throughout his life his frail body tormented with illness his un¬ 
conquerable spirit. 

He had for his edification a model elder brother, Armand, 
a pious lad who fell in love with the Jansenist heresy, and 
courted martyrdom for his faith. “Well,” said Armand to a 
friend who advised the better part of valor, “if you do not 
want to be hanged, at least do not put off other people.” The 
father said he had two fools for his sons—one in verse and 
the other in prose. The fact that Francois made verses 
almost as soon as he could write his name, convinced his very 
practical father that nothing good would come of him. But 
the famous hetaira, Ninon de I’Enclos, who lived in the 
provincial town to which the Arouets had returned after the 
birth of Fran 9 ois, saw in the youth signs of greatness; and 
when she died she left him 2000 francs for the purchase 
of books. His early education came from these, and from a 
dissolute abb4 (a Jerome Coignard in the flesh) who taught 
him scepticism along with his prayers. His later educators, 
the Jesuits, gave him the very instrument of scepticism by 
teaching him dialectic—^the art of proving anything, and 
therefore at last the habit of believing nothing. Fran 9 ois 
became an adept at argument: while the boj^s played games 
in the fields, he, aged twelve, stayed behind to discuss theology 
with the doctors. When the time came for him to earn his 
living, he scandalized his father by proposing to take up 
literature as profession. “Literature,” said M. Arouet, “is 
the profession of the man who wishes to be useless to society 



VOLTAIRE 


2^3 

and a burden to his relatives, and to die of hunger”;—one 
can see the table trembling under his emphasis. So Fran 9 ois 
went in for literature. 

Not that he was a quiet and merely studious lad; he burnt 
the midnight oil—of others. He took to staying out late, 
frolicking with the wits and roisterers of the town, and ex¬ 
perimenting with the commandments; until his exasperated 
father sent him off to a relative at Caen, witli instructions to 
keep the youth practically in confinement. Rut his jailer fell 
in love with his wit, and soon gave him free rein. After im¬ 
prisonment, now as later, came exile: his father sent him to the 
Hague with the French ambassador, requesting strict surveil¬ 
lance of the madcap boy; but Franfois at once fell in love 
with a little lady, “Pimpette,” held breathless clandestine in¬ 
terviews with her, and 'vrote fo her passionate letters ending 
always with the refrain, “1 shall certainly love you forever.” 
The affair was discovered, and he was sent home. He remem¬ 
bered Pimpette for several weeks. 

In 1715, proud of his twenty-one years, he went to Paris, 
just in time to be in at the death of Louis XIV. The succeed¬ 
ing Louis being too young to govern France, much less Paris, 
the power fell into the hands of a regent; and during this 
quasi-interregnum life ran riot in the capital of the world, 
and young Arouet ran with it. He soon achieved a rep'.ita- 
tion as a brilliant and reckless lad. When the Regent, for 
economy, sold half the horses that filled the royal stables, 
Fran 9 oi 8 remarked how much more sensible it would have 
been to dismiss half the asses that filled the royal court. At 
last all the bright and naughty things whispered about Paris 
were fathered upon him; and it was his ill luck that these 
included two poems accusing the Regent of desiring to usurp 
the throne. The Regent raged; and meeting the youth in the 
park one day, said to him: “M. Arouet, I will wager that 
I can show you something that you have never seen before.” 
“What is that?” “The inside of the Bastille.” Arouet saw 
V th« next day, April 16, 1717. 



8S4 THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 

While in the Bastille he adopted, for some unknown 
reason, the pen-name of Voltaire,^ and became a poet in earnest 
and at length. Before he had served eleven months he had 
written a long and not unworthy epic, the Henriade, telling 
the story of Henry of Navarre. Then the Regent, having 
discovered, perhaps, that he had imprisoned an innocent man, 
released him and gave him a pension; whereupon Voltaire 
wrote thanking him for so taking care of his board, and beg¬ 
ging permission hereafter to take care of his lodging himself. 

He passed now almost with a bound from the prison to the 
stage. His tragedy, (Edipe, was produced in 1718, and broke 
all the records of Paris by running for forty-five consecutive 
nights. His old father, come to upbraid him, sat in a box, 
and covered his joy by grumbling, at every hit, “Oh, the 
rascal! the rascal!” When the poet Fontenelle met Voltairt 
after the play and damned it with high praise, saying it was 
“too brilliant for tragedy,” Voltaire replied, smiling, “I must 
re-read your pastorals.” ^ The youth was in no mood f ji 
caution or for courtesy; had he not put into the play itself 
these reckless lines?— 

Our priests are not what simple folk suppose; 

Their learning is but our credulity. (Act iv, sc. 1) ; 

and into the mouth of Araspe this epoch-making challenge?— 

Let us trust to ourselves, see all with our own eyes; 

Let these be our oracles, our tripods and our gods, (ii, 5) 

The play netted Voltaire 4000 francs, which he proceeded 
to invest with a wisdom unheard of in literary men; through 
all his tribulations he kept the art not merely of making a 
spacious income, but of putting it to work; he respected the 
classic adage that one must live before one can philosophize. 
In 1729 he bought up all the tickets in a poorly planned 

1 Carlyle thought it an anagram for I, (le jeune, the younger). 

But the name seems to have occurred among the family of Voltaire’s mother. 
aBobertson^ 67. 



VOLTAIRE 


2^5 


government lottery, and made a large sum, much to the 
anger of the Government. But as he became rich lie be¬ 
came ever more generous; and a growing circle of prote¬ 
ges gathered about liim as he passed into the afternoon of 
life. 

It was well that he added an almost Hebraic subtlety of 
finance to his Gallic cleverness of pen, for his next play, 
Artemirey failed. Voltaire felt the failure keenly; every 
triumph sharpens the stin^j of later defeats. He was always 
painfully sensitive to })ublic opinion, and envied the animals 
because they do not know what people say of them. Fate 
added to his dramatic failure a bad case of srnall-pox; he 
cured himself by drinking 120 pints of lemonade, and some¬ 
what less of physic. When he came out of the shadow of 
death he found that his Hcnriade had made him famous; he 
boasted, with reason, that he had made poetry the fashion. 
He was received and feted evcr 3 "whcre; the aristocracy caught 
him up and turned him into a polished man of the world, an 
unequalled master of conversation, and the inheritor of the 
finest cultural tradition in Europe. 

For eight years he basked in the sunshine of the salons; 
and then fortune turned away. Some of the aristocracy could 
not forget that this young man had no other title to place 
and honor than that of genius, and could not quite forgive him 
for the distinction. During a dinner at the Due dc Sully’s 
chateau, after Voltaire had held forth for some minutes with 
unabashed eloquence and wit, the Chevalier de Rohan asked, 
not sotto voccy ‘‘Who is the 3 mung man who talks so loud.^” 
“My Lord,” answered Voltaire quickly, “he is one who does 
not carry a great name, but wins respect for the name he 
has.” To answer the Chevalier at all w’as impertinence; to 
answer him unanswerably was treason. The honorable Lord 
engaged a band of ruffians to assault Voltaire b 3 " night, merely 
cautioning them, “Don’t hit his head; something good may 
come out of that yet.” The next day, at the theatre, Voltaire 



226 


THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 


appeared, bandaged and limping, walked up to Rohan’s box, 
and challenged him to a duel. Then he went home and spent 
all day practising with the foils. But the noble Chevalier 
had no mind to be precipitated into heaven, or elsewhere, by 
a mere genius; he appealed to his cousin, who was Minister 
of Police, to protect him. Voltaire was arrested, and found 
himself again in his old home, the Bastille, privileged once 
more to view the world from the inside. He was almost im¬ 
mediately released, on condition that he go into exile in 
England. He went; but after being escorted to Dover he 
recrossed the Channel in disguise, burning to avenge himself. 
Warned that he had been discovered, and was about to be 
arrested a third time, he took ship again, and reconciled him¬ 
self to three years in England (1726-29). 

II. LONDON : LETTERS ON THE ENGLISH 

He set to work with courage to master the new language. 
He was displeased to find that plague had one syllable and 
ague two; he wished that plague would fake one-half the lan¬ 
guage, and ague the other half. But soon he could read 
English well; and within a year he w^as master of the best 
English literature of the age. He was introduced to the 
literati by Lord Bolingbroke, and dined with one after an¬ 
other of them, even with the elusive and corrosive Dean Swuft. 
He pretended to no pedigree, and asked none of others: when 
Congreve spoke of his own plays as trifles, and desired to be 
considered rather a gentleman of leisure than an author, 
Voltaire said to him sharply, ‘Tf you had had the misfortune 
to be only a gentleman like any other, I should never have 
come to see you.” 

What surprised him was the freedom with which Boling¬ 
broke, Pope, Addison, and Swift wrote whatever they pleased: 
here was a people that had opinions of its own; a people that 
had remade its religion, hanged its king, imported another, 
and built a parliament stronger than any ruler in Europe. 



VOLTAIRE 


827 

There was no Bastille here, and no lettres de cachet by which 
titled pensioners or royal idlers could send their untitled foes 
to jail without cause and without trial. Here were thiity 
religions, and not one priest. Here was the boldest sect of 
all, the Quakers, who astonished all Christendom by behaving 
like Christians. Voltaire never to the end of his life ceased 
to wonder at them: in the Dictionnairc Philosophique he makes 
one of them say: “Our God, who has bidden us love our 
enemies and suffer evil without comi^laint, assuredly has no 
mind that we should cross the sea to go and cut the throats 
of our brothers because murderers in red clothes and hats two 
feet high enlist citizens by making a noise with two sticks on 
an ass’s skin.” 

It was an England, too, that throbbed with a virile intel¬ 
lectual activity. Bacon’s name was still in the air, and the 
inductive mode of approach was triumphing in every field. 
Hobbes (1588—1679) had carried out the sceptical spirit of 
the Renaissance, and the practical spirit of his master, into 
^o complete and outspoken a materialism as would have won 
him in France the honor of martyrdom for a fallacy. Locke 
(1632-1704) had written a masterpiece of psychological 
analysis (the Essay on the Human Understanding, 1689), 
without any supernatural assumptions. Collins, Tyndal and 
other deists were re-affirming their faith in God while call¬ 
ing into question every other doctrine of the established church. 
Newton had just died: Voltaire attended the funeral, and 
often recalled the impression made upon him by the na¬ 
tional honors awarded to this modest Englishman. “Not 
long ago,” he writes, “a distinguished company were dis¬ 
cussing the trite and frivolous question, who was the greatest 
man,—Caesar, Alexander, Tamerlane, or Cromwell.? Some 
one answered that without doubt it was Isaac Newton. And 
rightly: for it is to him who masters our minds by the 
force of truth, and not to those who enslave them by violence, 
that we owe our reverence.” ^ Voltaire became a patient ^nd 
on the English, xiii; in Morley 52. 



828 THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 

thorough student of Newton’s works, and was later the chief 
protagonist of Newton’s views in France. 

One must marvel at the quickness with which Voltaire ab¬ 
sorbed almost all that England had to teach him—its litera¬ 
ture, \ts science, and its philosophy; he took all these varied 
elements, passed them through the fire of French culture and 
the French spirit, and transmuted them into the gold of Gallic 
wit and eloquence. He recorded his impressions in Letters 
on the English^ which he circulated in manuscript among his 
friends; he did not dare to print them, for they praised 
‘^perfidious Albion” too highly to suit the taste of the royal 
censor. They contrasted English political liberty and intel¬ 
lectual independence with French tyranny and bondage; ^ 
they condemned the idle aristocracy and the tithe-absorbing 
clergy of France, with their perpetual recourse to the Bastille 
as the answei to every question and every doubt; they urged 
the middle classes to rise to their proper place in the state, 
as these classes had in England. Without quite knowing or 
intending it, these letters were the first cock’s crow of the- 
Revolution. 


III. cirey: the romances 

Nevertheless the Regent, not knowing of this chanticleer, 
sent Voltaire permission, in 1789, to return to France. For 
five years Voltaire enjoyed again that Parisian life whose wine 
flowed in his veins and whose spirit flowed from his pen. And 
then some miscreant of a publisher, getting hold of the Letters 
on the English^ turned them without the author’s permission 


1 Diderot was jailed six months for his Letter on the Blind; Buffon, in 1751, 
was made to retract publicly his teachings on the antiquity of the earth; 
Freret was sent to the Bastille for a critical inquiry into the origins of the 
royal power in France; books continued to be burned officially by the public 
hangman till 1788, as also after the Restoration in 1815; in 1757 an edict pro¬ 
nounced the death penalty for any author who should “attack religion,"—i. e., 
call in question any dogma of the traditional faith.—Robertson, 73, 84, 105, 
107; Pelllssier, Voltaire Philosophe, Paris, 1908, p. 92; Buckle, History of 
CMlization, New York, 1918; Vol. I, pp. 529 f. 



VOLTAIRE 


229 


into print, and sold them far and wide, to the horror of all 
good Frenchmen, including Voltaire. The Parliament of 
Paris at once ordered the book to be publicly burned as ‘^scan- 
dalous, contrary to religion, to morals, and to respect for 
authority”; and Voltaire learned that he was again on the 
way to the Bastille. Like a good philosopher, he took to 
his heels—merely utilizing the occasion to elope with another 
man’s wife. 

The Marquise du Chatelct was twenty-eight; Voltaire, alas, 
was already forty. She was a remarkable w^oman: she had 
studied mathematics with the redoubtable Maupertuis, and 
then with Clairaut; she had written a learnedly annotated 
translation of Newton’s Princlpia; she was soon to receive 
higher rating than Voltaire in a contest for a pri 7 .e offered 
by the French Academy for an '?ssay on the physics of fire; in 
short she was precisely the kind of woman who never elopes. 
But the Marquis was so dull, and Voltaire w^as so interesting 
—creature lovable in every way,” she called him; ^^the 
finest ornament in France.” ^ lie returned her love with 
fervent admiration; called her ‘‘a great man w hose only fault 
was being a woman”; formed from her, and from the large 
number of highly talented women then in France, his convic¬ 
tion of the native mental equality of the sexes; ^ and decided 
that licr chateau at Circy was an admirable refuge from the 
inclement political weatlier of Paris. The Marquis w^as away 
with his regiment, which had long been his avenue of escape 
from mathematics; and he made no objection to the new ar¬ 
rangements. Because of the manages de convenances which 
forced rich old men on young women who had little taste for 
senility but much hunger for romance, the morals of the day 
permitted a lady to add a lover to her menage^ if it w ere done 
with a decent respect for the hypocrisies of mankind; and when 

1 In Sainte-Beuve, i, 206. 

2Tallentyrc, 207. Contrast Voltaire’s “God created w^oman only to tame 
mankind” (L’Ingenu, in Romances, 309), with Meredith’s “Woman will be the 
last thing civilized by man” (Ordeal of Richard Fever el, p. 1). Sociologists 
would side with Voltaire. Man is woman’s last domesticated animal. 



830 THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 

she chose not merely a lover but a genius, all the world forgave 
her. 

In the chateau at Cirey they did not spend their time bill¬ 
ing and cooing. All the day was taken up with study and re¬ 
search; Voltaire had an expensive laboratory equipped for 
work in natural science; and for years the lovers rivaled each 
other in discovery and disquisition. They had many guests, 
but it was understood that these should entertain themselves 
all day long, till supper at nine. After, supper, occasionally, 
there were private theatricals; or Voltaire would read to the 
guests one of his lively stories. Very soon Cirey became the 
Paris of the French mind; the aristocracy and the bourgeoisie 
joined in the pilgrimage to taste Voltaire’s wine and wit, and 
see him act in his own plays. He was happy to be the centre 
of this corrupt and brilliant world; he took nothing too seri¬ 
ously, and for a while made “J2irc et faire rire^^ his motto.^ 
Catherine of Russia called him ‘Hhe divinity of gayety.” ^^If 
Nature had not made us a little frivolous,” he said, ^Sve should 
be most wretched. It is because one can be frivolous tliat the 
majority do not hang themselves.” There was nothing of the 
dyspeptic Carlyle about him. *^Dulce est desipere in locor 
Woe to philosophers who cannot laugh away tlieir wrinkles. 
I look upon solemnity as a disease.” ^ 

It was now that he began to write those delightful romances 
— Zadig^ Candidey MicromegaSy UIngenUy Le Monde comme 
il va, etc.—which give the Voltairean spirit in purer form than 
anything else in his ninety-nine volumes. They are not nov¬ 
els, but humoresque-picaresque novelettes; the heroes are not 
persons but ideas, the villains are superstitions, and the events 
are thoughts. Some are mere fragments, like Ulngenu, which 
is Rousseau before Jean Jacques. A Huron Indian comes to 
France with some returning explorers; the first problem to 
which he gives rise is that of making him a Christian. An 
abbe gives him a copy of the New Testament, which the Huron 

1 “To laugh and to make laugh.” 

2 “It is sweet to be foolish on occasion.” 

• Letter to Frederick the Great, July, 1787. 



VOLTAIRE 


231, 

{ikes so much that he soon offers himself not only for bap¬ 
tism but for circumcision as well. “Eor,” he says, ‘T do not 
find in the book that was put into my liands a single person 
who was not circumcised. It is therefore evident that I must 
make a sacrifice to the Hebrew custom, and the sooner the bet¬ 
ter.” Hardly has this difficulty been smoothed over when 
he has trouble over confession; he asks w here in the Gospel 
this is commanded, and is directed to a passage in the Epistle 
of St. James: ‘‘Confess your sins to one anotiier.” He con¬ 
fesses; but “when he had done he dragged the abbe f"om the 
confessional chair, placed himself in the seat, and bade the 
abbe confess in turn. “Come, rny friend; it is said, ‘We must 
confess our sins to one another’; I have related my sins to 
you, and you shall not stir till j’ou recount yours.” He falls 
in love with Miss St. Yves, but is told that he cannot marry 
her because she has acted as godmother at his baptism; he 
is very angry at this little trick of the fates, and tlireatens 
to get unbaptized. Having received permission to marry her, 
he is surprised to find that for marriage “notaries, priests, 
witnesses, contracts and dispensations are absolutely neces¬ 
sary. . . . ‘You are then very great rogues, since so many 
precautions are required.’ ” And so, as the story passes on 
from incident to incident, the contradictions between primi¬ 
tive and ecclesiastical Christianitj" arc forced upon the sta;^''; 
one misses the impartiality of the scholar and the leniency of 
the philosopher; but Voltaire had begun his war against su¬ 
perstition, and in war we demand impartiality and leniency 
only of our foes. 

Micromegas is an imitation of Swift, but perhaps richer 
than its model in cosmic imagination. The earth is visited by 
an inhabitant from Sirius; he is some 500,000 feet tall, as be¬ 
fits the citizen of so large a star. On his way through space 
he has picked up a gentleman from Saturn, who grieves be¬ 
cause he is only a few thousand feet in height. As they walk 
through the Mediterranean the Sirian wets his heels. He asks 
his comrade how many senses the Saturnians have and is told: 



232 THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 

have seventy-two, but we are daily complaining of the 
smaller number.” ‘‘To what age do you commonly live?” 
“Alas, a mere trifle; . . . very few on our globe survive 
15,000 years. So you see that in a manner we begin to die 
the very moment we are born: our existence is no more than 
a point, our duration an instant, and our globe an atom. 
Scarce do we begin to learn a little when death intervenes 
before we can profit by experience.” ^ As they stand in the 
sea they take up a ship as one might pick up some animalcule; 
and the Sirian poises it on his thumb-nail, causing much com¬ 
motion among the human passengers. “The chaplains of the 
ship repeated exorcisms, the sailors swore, and the philos¬ 
ophers formed a system” to explain this disturbance of the 
laws of gravity. The Sirian bends down like a darkening 
cloud and addresses them: 

“O ye intelligent atoms, in whom the Supreme Being hath 
been pleased to manifest his omniscience and power, without 
doubt your joys on this earth must be pure and exquisite; 
for being unencumbered with matter, and—to all appearance 
—little else than soul, you must spend your lives in the de¬ 
lights of pleasure and reflection, which are the true enjoy¬ 
ments of a perfect spirit. True happiness I have nowhere 
found; but certainly here it dwells.” 

“We have matter enough,” answered one of the philoso¬ 
phers, “to do abundance of mischief. ... You must know, 
for example, that at this very moment, while I am speaking, 
there are 100,000 animals of our own species, covered with 
hats, slaying an equal number of their fellow-creatures, 
who wear turbans; at least they are either slaying or being 
slain; and this has usually been the case all over the earth 
from time immemorial.” 

“Miscreants!” cried the indignant Sirian; “I have a good 

'^Romancet, 339; cf. Shaw’s Back to Methuselah, One of the most famous 
of Shaw’s hon mots has its prototype in Voltaire’s Memnon (he Philosopher^ 
who says, “I am afraid that our little terraqueous globe is the mad-house of 
those hundred thousand millions of worlds of which your lordship does me the 
honor to speak.’’— Ibid, 394. 



VOLTAIRE 


233 


mind to take two or three steps, and trample the whole 
nest of such ridiculous assassins under my feet.” 

‘‘Don’t give yourself the trouble,” replied the philosopher; 
“they are industrious enough in securing their own destruc¬ 
tion. At the end of ten years the hundredth part of these 
wretches will not survive. . . . llesides, the punishment 
should not be inflicted upon them, but u[)on those sedentary 
and slothful barbarians who, from their palaces, give orders 
for murdering a million of men, and then solemnly thank 
God for their success/’ ^ 

Next to Candidly which belongs to a later period of Vol¬ 
taire’s life, the best of these talcs is Zadig. Zadig w\as a Bab¬ 
ylonian philosopher, “as wise as it is possible for men to be; 
, . . he knew as much of metaphysics as hath ever been knowm 
in any age,—that is, little or nothing at all.” “Jealousy made 
him imagine that he was in love wdth Semira.” In defending 
her against robbers he was w’ounded in the left eye. 

A messenger was despatched to ^Memphis for the great 
Egyptian physician Ilex’ines, who came with a numerous 
retinue. He visited Zadig, and declared that the patient 
would lose his eye. He even foretold the day and hour 
when this fatal event would happen. “Had it been the 
right eye,” said he, “I could easily have cured it; but the 
wounds of the left eye are incurable.'’ All Babylon lamented 
the fate of Zadig, and admired the profound knowdedge Oi 
Hermes. In two days the abscess broke of its own accord, 
and Zadig was perfectly cured. Hermes wKde a book to 
prove that it ought not to have healed. Zadig did not 
read it.^ 

He hurried, instead, to Semira, only to find that upon hear¬ 
ing Hermes’ first rejxort she had betrothed herself to another 
man, Ixaving, she said, “an unconquerable aversion to one-eyed 
men.” Zadig thereupon married a peasant woman, hoping 

1 Ibid., 351. 

2/6id., 40 f. 



234 THE STORY OF PHILOSOTHY 

to find in her the virtues which liad been missing in the court 
lady Semira. To make sure of the fidelity of his wife, he 
arranged w'ith a friend that he, Zadig, should pretend to die, 
and that the friend should make love to the wife an hour later. 
So Zadig had himself pronounced dead, and lay in the coffin 
while his friend first commiserated and then congratulated the 
widow, and at last proposed immediate marriage to her. She 
made a brief resistance; and then, “protesting she would ne’er 
consent, consented.” Zadig rose from the dead and fled into 
the w'oods to console himself with the beauty of nature. 

Having become a very wise man, he was made vizier to 
the king, to whose realm he brought prosperity, justice, and 
peace. But the queen fell in love with him; and the king, per¬ 
ceiving it, “began to be troubled. . . . He particularly re¬ 
marked that the queen’s shoes were blue, and that Zadig’s 
shoes were blue; that his wife’s ribbons were yellow, and that 
Zadig’s bonnet was yellow.” He resolved to poison them 
both; but the queen discovered the plot, and sent a note to 
Zadig: “Fly, I conjure thee, by our mutual love and our 
yellow ribbons!” Zadig again fled into the woods. 

He then represented to himself the human species, as it 
really is, as a parcel of insects devouring one another on a 
little atom of clay. This true image seemed to annihilate 
bis misfortunes, by making him sensible of the nothingness 
of his own being and that of Babylon. His soul launched 
into infinity; and detached from the senses, contemplated 
the immutable order of the universe. But when, afterwards, 
returning to himself, ... he considered that the Queen had 
perhaps died for him, the universe vanished from sight. 

Passing out of Babylon he saw a man cruelly beating a 
woman; he responded to her cries for help, fought the man, 
and at last, to save himself, struck a blow which killed his 
enemy. Thereupon he turned to the lady and asked, “What 
further, madam, wouldst thou have me do for thee.'*” “Die, 



VOLTAIRE 235 

villain! for thou hast killed my lover. Oh, that I were able to 
tear out thy heart!” 

Zadig was shortly afterward captured and enslaved; but 
he taught his master philosophy, and became his trusted coun¬ 
sellor. Through his advice the practice of suttee (by which 
a widow had herself buried with her husband) was abolished by 
a law which required that before such martyrdom the widow 
should spend an hour alone with a handsome man. Sent on a 
mission to the King of Serendil), Zadig taught him that an 
honest minister could best he fountl by choosing the lightest 
dancer among the apfilicants: he had the vestibule of the 
dance hall filled with loose valuables, easily stolen, and ar¬ 
ranged that each candidate should pass through the vestibule 
alone and unwatched; when they had all entered, they were 
asked to dance. “Never had dancers performed more un¬ 
willingly or with less grace. Their heads were down, their 
backs bent, their hands pressed to their sides.”—And so the 
story rushes on. We can imagine those evenings at Cirey! 


iv. POTSDAM AND FREDERICK 

Those who could not conic to him wrote to him. In 1736 
began his correspondence with Frederick, then Prince, and not 
yet Great. Frederick’s first letter was like that of a boy to 
a king; its lavish flattei-y gives us an inkling of the reputa'ion 
which Voltaire—though he had not yet written any of his mas¬ 
terpieces—had already won. It proclaims Voltaire as “the 
greatest man of France, ami a mortal who does honor to lan¬ 
guage. ... I count it one of the greatest honors of my life 
to be born the contemporary of a man of such distinguished 
attainments as yours. ... It is not given to every one to 
make the mind laugh”; and “what pleasures can surpass those 
of the mind?”^ Frederick was a free-thinker, who looked 
upon dogmas as a king looks upon subjects; and Voltaire had 


I In Sainte-Beuve, i, 212-215. 



236 THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 

great hopes that on the throne Frederick would make the En¬ 
lightenment fashionable, while he himself, perhaps, might play 
Plato to Frederick’s Dionysius. When Frederick demurred 
to the flattery with which Voltaire answered his own, Voltaire 
replied: “A prince who writes against flattery is as singular 
as a pope who writes against infallibility.” Frederick sent 
him a copy of the Anti-MachiavcU in which the prince spoke 
very beautifully of the iniquity of war, and of the duty of a 
king to preserve peace; Voltaire wept tears of joy over this 
royal pacifist. A few months later Frederick, made king, in¬ 
vaded Silesia and plunged Europe into a generation of blood¬ 
shed. 

In 1745 the poet and his mathematician went to Paris, 
when Voltaire became a candidate for membership in the 
French Academy. To achieve this quite superfluous distinc¬ 
tion he called himself a good Catholic, complimented some 
powerful Jesuits, lied inexhaustibly, and in general behaved as 
most of us do in such cases. He failed; but a year later he 
succeeded, and delivered a reception address which is one of 
the classics of the literature of France. For a while he lingered 
in Paris, flitting from salon to salon, and producing play after 
play. From CEdipe at eighteen to Irene at eighty-three he 
wrote a long series of dramas, some of them failures, most of 
them successes. In 1730 Brutus failed, and in 1732 Ertphyle 
failed; his friends urged him to abandon the drama; but in 
the same year he produced TiUire^ which became his greatest 
success. Mahomet followed in 1741, Merope in 1743, Semir- 
amis in 1748, and Tancrede in 1760. 

Meanwhile tragedy and comedy had entered his own life. 
After fifteen years, his love for Mme. du Chatclet had some¬ 
what thinned; they had even ceased to quarrel. In 1748 the 
Marquise fell in love with the handsome young Marquis de 
Saint-Lambert. When Voltaire discovered it he raged; but 
when Saint-Lambert asked his forgiveness he melted into a 
benediction. He had reached the crest of life now, and began 
to see death in the distance; he could not take it ill that youth 



VOLTAIRE X»7 

should be served. “Such are women,” he said philosophically 
(forgetting that there are such men too): “I displaced Rich¬ 
elieu, Saint-Lambert turns me out! That is the order of 
things; one nail drives out another; so goes the world.” ^ He 
wrote a pretty stanza to the third nail: 

Saint-Lambort, it is all for thee 
The flower grows; 

The rose's thorns are all for me; 

For tbee the rose. 

Then, in ITI-O, came the death of Mine, du Chatelet in child¬ 
birth. It was characteristic of the age that her husband and 
Voltaire and Saint-Lambert should meet at her death-bed with 
not one word of reproach, and indeed made friends by theii 
common loss. 

Voltaire tried to forget his bereavement in work; for a time 
he busied himself with his Steele dc Louis XIV; but what res¬ 
cued him from despondency was the opportune renewal ot 
Frederick’s invitation to come to his court at Potsdam. An 
invitation accompanied by 3000 francs for traveling expenses 
was irresistible. Voltaire left for Berlin in 1760. 

It soothed him to find himself assigned to a splendid suite 
in Frederick’s palace, and accepted on equal terms by the most 
powerful monarch of the age. At first his letters were full of 
satisfaction: writing on July 24* to d’Argental he describes 
Potsdam—“150,000 soldiers; . . . opera, comedy, pliilos- 
ophy, poetry, grandeur and graces, grenadiers and muses, 
trumpets and violins, the suppers of Plato, society and liberty, 
—who w'ould believe it.? Yet it is very true.” Years before, 
he had written: “il/ore Dieu! . . . what a delightful life it 
would be to lodge with three or four men of letters with talents 
and no jealousy” (what imagination!), “to love one another, 
live quietly, cultivate one’s art, talk of it, enlighten ourselves 
mutually!—I picture to myself that I shall some day live in 
this little Paradise.” ® And here it was • 

1 In Sainte-Beuve, i, 211. 

* Ibid., i, 193. 



238 THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 

Voltaire avoided the state dinners; lie could not bear to be 
surrounded with bristling generals; iie reserved himself for 
the private suppers to which Frederick, later in tlie evening, 
w'ould invite a small inner circle of literary friends; for this 
greatest prince of his age yearned to be a poet and a philos¬ 
opher. The conversation at tliese suppers was always in 
French; Voltaire tried to learn German, but gave it up after 
nearly choking; and wished the Germans had more wit and 
fewer consonants.^ One who heard the conversation said that 
it was better than the most interesting and best-written book 
in the world. They talked about everything, and said what 
they thought. Frederick’s wit was almost as sharp as Vol¬ 
taire’s; and only Voltaire dared to answer him, with that 
finesse which could kill without giving offense. “One thinks 
boldly, one is free here,” wrote Voltaire joyfully. Frederick 
“scratches with one hand, but caresses with the other. ... I 
am crossed in nothing ... I find a port after fifty years of 
storm. I find the protection of a king, the conversation of a 
philosopher, the charms of an agreeable man, united in one 
W’ho for sixteen years consoled me in misfortune and sheltered 
me from my enemies. If one can be certain of anything it is 
of the character of the King of Prussia.” “ However . . . 

In November of this same year Voltaire thought he would 
improve his finances by investing in Saxon bonds, despite 
Frederick’s prohibition of such investments. The bonds rose, 
and Voltaire profited; but his agent, Hirsch, tried to black¬ 
mail him by threatening to publish tlie transaction. Voltaire 
“sprang at his throat and sent him sprawling.” Frederick 
learned of the affair and fell into a royal rage. “I shall want 
him at the most another year,” he said to La Mettrie; “one 
squeezes the orange and throws away the rind.” La Mettrie, 
perhaps anxious to disperse his rivals, took care to report 
this to Voltaire. The suppers were resumed, “but,” wrote 
Voltaire, “the orange rind haunts my dreams. . . . The man 

1 Brandes. 2l/ain Current*, 1, S. 

aTattentj re, 22fi, 2.30. 



VOLTAIRE 239 

who fell from the top of a steeple, and finding the falling 
through the air soft, said, ‘Good, provided it lasts,’ was not a 
little as I am.” 

He half desired a breah; for he was as homesick as only a 
Frenchman can be. The decisive trifle came in 1752. Mau- 
pertuis, the great mathematician whom Frederick had im¬ 
ported from France with so many others in an attempt to 
arouse the German mind by direct contact with the “Enlight¬ 
enment,” quarreled with a subordinate mathematician, Koenig, 
over an interpretation of Newton. Frederick entered into the 
dispute on the side of Maupertiiis; and \'ultaire, who had more 
courage than caution, entered it on the side of Koenig. “Un¬ 
luckily for me,” he wrote to Mine. Denis, “I am also an author, 
and in the opposite camp to the King. I have no sceptre, but 
I have a pen.” About the same time Frederick was writing to 
his sister: “The devil is incarnate in my men of letters; there 
is no doing anything with them. These fellows have no intelli¬ 
gence except for society. ... It must be a consolation to ani¬ 
mals to see that people with minds are often no better than 
they.” ^ It w’as now that A'oltaire wrote against Maupertuis 
his famous “Diatribe of Dr. Akakia.” He read it to Fred¬ 
erick, who laughed all night over it, but begged Voltaire not 
to publish it. Voltaire seemed to acquiesce; but the truth 
was that the thing was already sent to the printer, and the 
author could not bring himself to practise infanticide on ‘he 
progeny of his pen. When it appeared Frederick burst into 
flame, and Voltaire fled from the conflagration. 

At Frankfort, though in territory quite outside Frederick’s 
jurisdictio'U, he was overtaken and arrested by the King’s 
agents, and told that he could not go on until he surrendered 
Frederick’s poem, the Palladium, which had not been adapted 
for polite society, and out-Pucelled Voltaire’s Puccllc itself. 
But the terrible manuscript was in a trunk which had been 
lost on the way; and for weeks, till it came, Voltaire was kept 
almost in prison. A book-seller to whom he owed something 


* In Sainte-Beuve, i, 218. 



240 


THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 


thought it an opportune moment to come and press for the 
payment of his bill; Voltaire, furious, gave him a blow on the 
ear; whereupon Voltaire’s secretary, Collini, offered comfort 
to the man by pointing out, ‘‘Sir, you have received a box 
on the ear from one of the greatest men in the world.” ^ 

Freed at last, he was about to cross the frontier into France, 
when word came that he was exiled. The hunted old soul 
hardl 3 ^ knew where to turn; for a time he thought of going 
to Pennsylvania—one may imagine his desperation. He spent 
the March of 1754 seeking “an agreeable tomb” in the neigh¬ 
borhood of Geneva, safe from the ri\jl autocrats of Paris and 
Berlin; at last he bought an old estate called Les DSlices; set¬ 
tled down to cultivate his garden and regain his health; and 
when his life seemed to be ebbing away into senility, entered 
upon the period of his noblest and greatest work. 

V. LES DELICES: THE ESSAY ON MORALS 

What was the cause of his new exile.? That he had pub¬ 
lished in Berlin “the most ambitious, the most voluminous, the 
most characteristic, and the most daring of his works.” ^ Its 
title was no small part of it: Essai sur les viocurs et Vesprit 
des Nations^ et sur les principaux fails de Vhistoire depuis 
Charlemagne jusqu^d Louis XIII —an Essay on the Morals 
and the Spirit of the Nations from Charlemagne to Louis 
XIII. He had begun it at Cirey for Mme. du Chatelet, 
spurred on to the task by her denunciation of history as she 
is writ. 

It is “an old almanac,” she had said. “What does it matter 
to me, a Frenchwoman living on my estate, to know that Egil 
succeeded Haquin in Sweden, and that Ottoman was the son 
of OrtogruL? I have read with pleasure the history of the 
Greeks and the Romans; they offered me certain pictures 
which attracted me. But I have never yet been able to finish 
any long history of our modern nations. I can see scarcely 

iMorley, 146. 
s Tallentyre, 29L 



VOLTAIRE 


2« 

anything in them but confusion; a host of minute events 
without connection or sequence, a thousand battles wliich set¬ 
tled nothing. I renounced a study which overwhelms the mind 
without illuminating it.” 

Voltaire had agreed; he had made his Ingenu say, ^^History 
is nothing more than a picture of crimes and misfortunes”; 
and he was to write to Horace Walpole (July 15, 1768): 
‘‘Truly the history of the Yorkists and Lancastrians, and 
many others, is much like reading llie history of higliway 
robbers.” But he had exj^ressed to Mine, du Chatelet the 
hope that a way nut might lie in applying philosophy to his¬ 
tory, and endeavoring to trace, beneath the flux of political 
events, the history of the human mind. ^ “Only philosophers 
should write history,” he said.^’ “In all nations, history Is dis¬ 
figured by fable, till at last philosophy comes to enlighten 
man; and when it does finally arrive in the midst of this dark¬ 
ness, it finds the human mind so blinded by centuries of error, 
that it can hardly undeceive it; it finds ceremonies, facts and 
monuments, heaped up to prove lies.” ^ “History,” he con¬ 
cludes, “is after all nothing but a pack of trickr which we play 
upon the dead”;*^ we transform the past to suit our wishes 
for the future, and in the upsliot “history proves that any¬ 
thing can be proved by history.” 

He worked like a miner to find in this “Mississippi of false¬ 
hoods” ® the grains of truth about the real history of man¬ 
kind. Year after year he gave liimself to preparatory stud¬ 
ies: a History of Russia, a History of Charles XII, The Age 
of Louis XIV, and The Age of Louis XIII; and through these 
tasks he developed in himself that unflagging intellectual con¬ 
science which enslaves a man to make a genius. “The Jesuit 
Pere Daniel, who produced a History of France, had placed 

1 Robertson, 23; Morley, 215; Tallentyre, Voltaire in llis Letters, New 
York, 1919, p. 222. 

2 Pcllissier, 213. 

^Essai sur les Moeurs, Introduction. 

* In Morley, 220. 

® Matthew Arnold’s description of history. 



*42 THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 

before him in the Royal Library of Paris 1200 volumes of 
documents and manuscripts; spent an hour or so looking 
through them; and then, turning to Father Tournemine, the 
former teacher of Voltaire, dismissed the matter by declaring 
that all this material was ‘useless old paper which he had no 
need of for the purpose of writing his history.’ ” ^ Not so 
Voltaire: he read everything on his subject that he could lay 
his hands on; he pored over hundreds of volumes of memoirs; 
he wrote hundreds of letters to survivors of famous events; 
and even after publishing his works he continued to study, 
and improved every edition. 

But this gathering of material was oidy preparatory; what 
was needed was a new method of selection and arrangement. 
Mere facts would not do—even if, as so seldom happens, they 
were facts. “Details that lead to nothing are to history what 
baggage is to an army, impedimenta; we must look at things 
in the large, for the very reason that the human mind is 
so small, and sinks under the weight of minutiae.” ^ “Facts” 
should be collected by annalists and arranged in some kind 
of historical dictionary where one might find them at need, 
as one finds words. What Voltaire sought was a unify¬ 
ing principle by which the whole history of civilization in 
Europe could be woven on one thread; and he was convinced 
that this thread was the history of culture. He was resolved 
that his history should deal not with kings but with move¬ 
ments, forces, and masses; not with nations but with the human 
race; not with wars but with the march of the human mind. 
“Battles and revolutions are the smallest part of the plan; 
squadrons and battalions conquering or being conquered, 
towns taken and retaken, are common to all history. . . . 
Take away the arts and the progress of the mind, and you will 
find nothing” in any age “remarkable enough to attract the 
attention of posterity.” ® “I wish to write a history not of 

1 Brandes, Franqoi$ de Voltaire, 

2 In Morley, 275. 

» Voltaire in Hie Lettere, 4(M1. 



VOLTAIRE 


24}3 


wars, but of society; and to ascertain how men lived in the 
interior of their families, and what were the arts which they 
commonly cultivated. . . . My object is the history of the 
human mind, and not a mere detail of petty facts; nor am I 
concerned with tlie history of great lords . . • ; but I want 
to know what were the steps by which men passed from bar¬ 
barism to civilization.’’ ^ Tliis rejection of Kings from his¬ 
tory was part of that democratic uprising which at last re¬ 
jected them from governmeni; tlic Kssai sur Ics Modurs began 
the detlironement of the Bour])ons. 

And so he produccal the first philo.sopliy of liistory—the 
first systematic attempt to trace the streams of natural causa¬ 
tion in the development of tlie European mind; it was to be 
expected that such an experiment should follow upon the 
abandonment of supernatural explanations: history could not 
come into its own until theology gave way. According to 
Buckle, Voltaire’s book laid the basis of modern historical sci¬ 
ence; Gibbon, Niebuhr, Buckle and Grote were his grateful 
debtors and followers; he was the caput Nili of them all, and 
is still unsurpassed in the field which he first explored. 

But why did his greatest book bring him exile Because, 
by telling the truth, it offended everybody. It especially en¬ 
raged the clergy by taking the view later developed by Gibbon, 
that the rapid conquest of paganism by Cliristianity had dis¬ 
integrated Rome from within and prepared it to fall an c.tS}’ 
victim to the invading and immigrating barbarians. It en¬ 
raged them further by giving much less space than usual to 
Judea and Christendom, and by speaking of China, India and 
Persia, and of their faiths, with the impartiality of a Martian; 
in this new perspective a vast and novel world was revealed; 
every dogma faded into relativity; the endless East took on 
something of the proportions given it by geography; Europe 
suddenly became conscious of itself as the experimental penin¬ 
sula of a continent and a culture greater than its own. How 
could it forgive a European for so unpatriotic a revelation.?' 

iln Buckle, Uutory of Civilization, I, 580. 



244 THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 

The King decreed that this Frenchman who dared to think of 
himself as a man first and a Frenchman afterward should 
never put foot upon the soil of France again. 


VI. ferney: oandide 

Les DMices had been a temporary home, a centre from which 
Voltaire might prospect to find a shelter of more permanence. 
He found it in 1758 at Ferney, just inside the Swiss line 
near France; here he would be secure from the French power, 
and yet near to French refuge if the Swiss Government should 
trouble him. This last change ended his Wanderjahrc. His 
fitful runnings to and fro had not been all the result of 
nervous restlessness; they had reflected, too, his ubiquitous 
insecurity from persecution; only at sixty-four did he find a 
house that could be also his home. There is a passage at the 
end of one of his tales, “The Travels of Scarmentado,” which 
almost applies to its author: “As I had now seen all that was 
rare or beautiful on earth, I resolved for the future to see 
nothing but my own home; I took a wife, and soon suspected 
that she deceived me; but notwithstanding this doubt I still 
found that of all conditions of life this was much the happi¬ 
est.” He had no wife, but he had a niece—which is better 
for a man of genius. “We never hear of his wishing to be in 
Paris. . . . There can be no doubt that this wise exile pro¬ 
longed his days.” ^ 

He was happy in his garden, planting fruit trees which he 
did not expect to see flourish in his lifetime. When an ad¬ 
mirer praised the work he had done for posterity he answered, 
“Yes, I have planted 4000 trees.” He had a kind word for 
everybody, but could be forced to sharper speech. One day 
he asked a visitor whence he came. “From Mr. Haller’s.” 
“He is a great man,” said Voltaire; “a great poet, a great nat¬ 
uralist, a great philosopher, almost a universal genius.” 


iMorley, 239. 



VOLTAIRE 245 

‘^What you say, sir, is the more admirable, as Mr. Haller does 
not do you the same justice.” “Ah,” said Voltaire, “perhaps 
we are both mistaken.” ^ 

Ferney now become the intellectual capital of the world; 
every learned man or enlightened ruler of the day paid his 
court either in person or by correspondence. Here came scep¬ 
tical priests, liberal aristocrats, and learned ladies; here came 
Gibbon and Boswell from England; here came d’Alembert, 
Helvetius, and the other rebels the Enlightenment; and 
countless otliers. At last the entertainment of this endless 
stream of visitors proved too expensive even for Voltaire; he 
complained that he was becoming the hotel-keeper for all Eu¬ 
rope. To one acquaintance who announced that he had come 
to stay for six weeks, Voltaire said: “What is the difference 
between you and Don Quixote.^ He mistook inns for cha¬ 
teaux, and you mistake this chateau for an inn.” “God pre¬ 
serve me from my friends,” he concluded; “I will take care of 
my enemies myself.” 

Add to this perpetual hospitality, the largest correspond¬ 
ence the world has ever seen, and the most brilliant. Letters 
came from all sorts and conditions of men: a burgomaster 
wrote from Germany asking “in confidence whether there is a 
God or not,” and begging Voltaire to answer by return i^ost; " 
Gustavus III of Sweden was elated by the thought that \ ol- 
taire sometimes glanced at the North, and told him that this 
was their greatest encouragement to do their best up there; 
Christian VII of Denmark apologized for not establishing 
at once all reforms; Catherine II of Russia sent him beautiful 
presents, wrote frequently, and hoped he would not consider 
her importunate. Even Frederick, after a 3 ^ear of doldrums, 
returned to the fold, and resumed his correspondence with the 
King of Ferney. 

“You have done me great wrongs,’^ he wrote. “I have for¬ 
given them all, and I even wish to forget them. But if you 

I Tallentyre, 349, 
a Korley, 885. 



S46 


THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 


had not had to do with a madman in love with your noble 
genius, you would not have gotten off so well. ... Do you 
want sweet things? Very well; I will tell you some truths. 

I esteem in you the finest genius that the ages have borne; I 
admire your poetry, I love your prose. . . . Never has an 
author before you had a tact so keen, a taste so sure and 
delicate. You are charming in conversation; you know how 
to amuse and instruct at the same time. You are the most 
seductive being that I know% capable of making yourself loved 
by all the world when you choose. You have such graces of 
mind that you can offend and yet at the same time deserve the 
indulgence of those who know you. In short, you would be 
perfect if you were not a man.” ^ 

Who would have expected so gay a host to become the ex¬ 
ponent of pessimism? In youth, as a reveler in Paris’s salons, 
he had seen the sunnier side of life, despite the Bastille; and 
yet even in those careless days he had rebelled against the 
unnatural optimism to which Leibnitz had given currency. 
To an ardent young man who had attacked him in print, and 
had contended with Leibnitz that this is “the best of all pos¬ 
sible worlds,” Voltaire WTote, “I am pleased to hear, sir, that 
you have written a little book against me. You do me too 
much honor. . . . When you have shown, in verse or otherwise, 
why so many men cut their throats in the best of all pos¬ 
sible worlds, I shall be exceedingly obliged to you. I await 
your arguments, your verses, and your abuse; and assure you 
from the bottom of my heart that neither of us know^s any¬ 
thing about the matter. I have the honor to be,” etc. 

Persecution and disillusionment had worn dowm his faith in 
life; and his experiences at Berlin and Frankfort had taken 
the edge from his hope. But both faith and hope suffered 
most when, in November, 1755, came the news of the awful 
earthquake at Lisbon, in which 30,000 people had been killed. 
The quake had come on All Saints’ Day; the churches had 
been crow^ded with worshippers; and death, finding its enemies 

1 In Sainte-Beuve, I, 221. 



VOLTAIRE 


247 

in close formation, had reaped a rich harvest. Voltaire was 
shocked into seriousness and raged when he heard that the 
French clergy were explaining the disaster as a punishment 
for the sins of the people of Lisl)on. He broke forth in a 
passionate poem in which he gave vigorous expression to the 
old dilemma: Either God can prevent evil and he will not; 
or he wishes to prevent it and he cannot. He was not satis¬ 
fied with Spinoza’s answer that good and evil are human terms, 
inapj)licable to the universe, and that our tragedies are trivial 
things in the perspective of eternitv". 

I am a puny part of the gn at whole. 

Yes; but all animals coridemr]r‘d to live, 

All sentient things, born by the same stern law, 

Suffer like me, and like me also die. 

The vulture fastens on his timid prey, 

And stabs with bloody beak the quivering limbs: 

All’s well, it seems, for it. But in a while 
An eagle tears the vulture into shreds; 

The eagle is transfixed by shafts of man; 

The man, prone in the dust of battlefields, 

Mingling his blood with dying fellow men, 

Becomes in turn the food of ravenous birds. 

Thus the whole world in every member groans. 

All born for torment and for mutual death. 

And o’er this ghastl 3 ^ chaos you would say 
The ills of each make up the good of all! 

What blessedness ! And as, w ith quaking voice. 

Mortal and pitiful ye erv, “All’s well,” 

The universe belies you, and your heart 
Refutes a hundred times your mind’s conceit. . o • 

What is the verdict of the vastest mind.^ 

Silence: the book of fate is closed to us. 

Man is a stranger to his own research; 

He knows not whence he comes, nor whither goes. 
Tormented atoms in a bed of mud, 

Devoured by death, a mockery of fate: 

But thinking atoms, whose far-seeing eyes. 



«48 THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 

Guided by thoughts, have measured the faint stars. 

Our being mingles with the infinite; 

Ourselves we never see, or come to know. 

This world, this theatre of pride and wrong. 

Swarms with sick fools who talk of happiness. . • • 

Once did I sing, in less lugubrious tone, 

The sunny ways of pleasure’s general rule; 

The times have changed, and, taught by growing age, 

And sharing of the frailty of mankind, 

Seeking a light amid the deepening gloom, 

I can but suffer, and will not repine.^ 

A few months later the Seven Years’ War broke out; Vol¬ 
taire looked upon it as madness and suicide, the devastation of 
Europe to settle whether England or France should win ‘‘a 
few acres of snow” in Canada. On the top of this came a 
public repl^, by Jean Jacques Rousseau, to the poem on Lis¬ 
bon. Man himself w^as to be blamed for the disaster, said 
Rousseau; if we lived out in the fields, and not in the towms, 
we should not be killed on so large a scale; if wc lived under 
the sky, and not in houses, houses w^ould not fall upon us. 
Voltaire was amazed at the popularity w^on by this profound 
theodicy; and angry that his name should be dragged into the 
dust by such a Quixote, he turned upon Rousseau “that most 
terrible of all the intellectual weapons ever wielded by man, 
the mockery of Voltaire.” ^ In three days, in 1751, he wrote 
Candide. 

Never was pessimism so gaily argued; never was man made 
to laugh so heartily while learning that this is a world of woe. 
And seldom has a story been told with such simple and hidden 
art; it is pure narrative and dialogue; no descriptions pad it 
out; and the action is riotously rapid. “In Voltaire’s fin¬ 
gers,” said Anatole France, “the pen runs and laughs.” ® It 
is perhaps the finest short story in all literature. 

^Selected Works of Voltaire; London, 1911; pp. 8-5. 

2 Tallentyre, 231. 

«Introd. to Candide, Modern Library edition. 



VOLTAIRE 249 

Candide, as his name indicates, is a simple and honest lad, 
son of the great Raron of Thunder-Ten-Trockh of West¬ 
phalia, and pupil of the learned Pangloss. 

Pangloss was professor of mctaphysicothcologicocosmoni- 
gology. . . . ‘‘It is demonstrable,” said he, “that all is 
necessarily for the best end. Observe that the nose has been 
formed to bear spectacles . . . legs were visibly designed 
for stockings . . , stones were designed to construct 
castles . . . pigs were marie so that we might have pork 
all the year round. Consequently they who assert that all 
is well have said a foolish thing; tliey .diould have said all is 
for the best.” 

While Pangloss is discoursing, the castle is attacked by the 
Bulgarian army, and Candide is captured and turned into a 
soldier. 

He was made to wheel about to the right and to the left, 
to draw his rammer, to return his rammer, to present, to 
fire, to march. . . . Pie resolved, one fine day in spring, to 
go for a walk^ marching straight before him, believing that 
it was a privilege of the human as well as the animal species 
to make use of their legs as they pleased. He had advanced 
two leagues when he was overtaken by four heroes six feet 
tall, who bound him and carried him to a dungeon. lie was 
asked which he would like the best, to be whipped six and 
thirty times through all the regiment, or to receive at on* ^ 
two balls of lead in his brain. He vainly said that human 
will is free, and that he chose neither the one nor the other. 

He was forced to make a choice; he determined, in virtue of 
that gift of God called liberty, to run the gauntlet six-and- 
thirty times. He bore this twice.^ 

Candide escapes, takes passage to Lisbon, and on board ship 
meets Professor Pangloss, who tells how the Baron and Baroness 
were murdered and the castle destroyed. ^‘All this,” he con¬ 
cludes, “was indispensable; for private misfortune makes the 
general good, so that the more private misfortunes there are, 

1 Candide, p. 7. 



250 THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 

the greater is the general good.” They arrive in Lisbon just 
in time to be caught in the earthquake. After it is over they 
tell each other their adventures and sufferings; whereupon an 
old servant assures them that their misfortunes are as nothing 
compared with her own. hundred times I was on the point 
of killing myself, but I loved life. This ridiculous foible is 
perhaps one of our most fatal characteristics; for is there any¬ 
thing more absurd than to wish to carry continually a burden 
which one can always throw downOr, as another character 
expresses it, ^‘All things considered, the life of a gondolier is 
preferable to that of a doge; but I believe the difference is so 
trifling that it is not worth the trouble of examining.” 

Candide, fleeing from the Inquisition, goes to Paraguay; 
‘‘there the Jesuit Fathers possess all, and the people nothing; 
it is a masterpiece of reason and justice.” In a Dutch colony 
he comes upon a negro with one hand, one leg, and a rag for 
clothing. “When we work at the sugar canes,” the slave ex¬ 
plains, “and the mill snatches hold of a finger, they cut off 
a hand; and when we try to run away, they cut off a leg. . . . 
This is the price at which you eat sugar in Europe.” Can¬ 
dide finds much loose gold in the unexplored interior; he re¬ 
turns to the coast and hires a vessel to take him to France; 
but the skipper sails off with the gold and leaves Candide phi¬ 
losophizing on the wharf. With what little remains to him, 
Candide purchases a passage on a ship bound for Bordeaux; 
and on board strikes up a conversation with an old sage, 
Martin. 

“Do you believe,” said Candide, “that men have always 
massacred one another as they do today, that they have al¬ 
ways been liars, cheats, traitors, ingratcs, brigands, idiots, 
thieves, scoundrels, gluttons, drunkards, misers, envious, am¬ 
bitious, bloody-minded, calumniators, debauchees, fanatics, 
hypocrites and fools?” 

“Do you believe,” said Martin, “that hawks have always 
eaten pigeons when they have found them?” 

“Without doubt,” said Candide. 



VOLTAIRE 


261 


‘Well, then,” said Martin, “if hawks have always had the 
same character, why should you imagine that men have 
changed theirs?” 

“Oh!” said Candide, “there is a vast deal of difference, for 
free will—” 

And reasoning thus they arrived at Bordeaux.^ 

We cannot follow Candide through the rest of his adven¬ 
tures, which form a rollicking commentary on the difficulties 
of medieval theology and Leibnitzian optimism. After suffer¬ 
ing a variety of evils among a variety of men, Candide settles 
down as a farmer in Turkey; and the story ends with a final 
dialogue between master and pupil: 

Pangloss sometimes said to Candide: 

“There is a concatenation of :ivents in this best of all pos¬ 
sible worlds: for if you had not been kicked out of a mag¬ 
nificent castle; , . . if you had not been put into the In¬ 
quisition; if you had not walked over America; ... if you 
had not lost all your gold; . . . you would not be here 
eating preserved citrons and pistachio-nuts.” 

“All that is very well,” answered Candide; “but let us culti¬ 
vate our garden.” 

Vn. THE ENCYCLOPEDIA AND THE PHILOSOPHIC DICTIONARY 

The popularity of so irreverent a book as Candide gives us 
some sense of the spirit of the age. The lordly culture of 
Louis XIV’s time, despite the massive bishops who spoke so 
eloquent a part in it, had learned to smile at dogma and 
tradition. The failure of the Reformation to capture France 
had left for Frenchmen no half-way house between infallibility 
and infidelity; and while the intellect of Germany and Eng¬ 
land moved leisurely in the lines of religious evolution, the 
mind of France leaped from the hot faith wdiich had mas¬ 
sacred the Huguenots to the cold hostility with which La 
Mettric, Helvetius, Holhach and Diderot turned upon the re- 


iP. 104. 



THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 


^5^ 

ligion of their fathers. Let us look for a moment at the in¬ 
tellectual environment in which the later Voltaire moved and 
had his being. 

La Mettrie (1709-51) was an army physician who had lost 
his post by writing a Natural History of tlie Soul, and had 
won exile by a work called Man a Machine. He had taken 
refuge at the court of Frederick, who was himself something 
of an advanced thinker and was resolved to have the very lat¬ 
est culture from Paris. La Mettrie took up the idea of 
mechanism where the frightened Descartes, like a boy who has 
burned his fingers, had dropped it; and announced boldly that 
all the world, not excepting man, was a machine. The soul is 
material, and matter is soulful; but whatever they are they 
act upon each other, and grow and decay with each other in 
a way that leaves no doubt of their essential similarity and 
interdependence. If the soul is pure spirit, how can enthusi¬ 
asm warm the body, or fever in the body disturb the processes 
of the mind.'* All organisms have evolved out of one original 
germ, through the reciprocal action of organism and environ¬ 
ment. The reason why animals have intelligence, and plants 
none, is that animals move about for their food, while plants 
take what comes to them. Man has the highest intelligence 
because he has the greatest wants and the widest mobility; 
‘‘beings without wants are also without mind.” 

Though La Mettrie was exiled for these opinions, Helve- 
tius (1715-71), who took them as the basis of his book On 
Man, became one of the richest men in France, and rose to 
position and honor. Here we have the ethic, as in La Mettrie 
the metaphysic, of atheism. All action is dictated by egoism, 
self-love; “even the hero follows the feeling which for him is 
associated with the greatest pleasure”; and “virtue is egoism 
furnished with a spy-glass.” ^ Conscience is not the voice of 
God, but the fear of the police; it is the deposit left in us 
from the stream of prohibitions poured over the growing soul 
1 Taine, The Ancient Rigime. 



VOLTAIRE 


25S 


by parents and teachers and press. Morality must be 
founded not on theology but on sociology; the changing needs 
of societj% and not any unchanging revelation or dogma, must 
determine the good. 

The greatest figure in this group was Denis Diderot (1713- 
84). His ideas were expressed in various fragments from 
his own pen, and in the System of Nature of Baron d’Holbach 
(1723-89), whose salon was the centre of Diderot’s circle. 
“If we go back to the beginning,” says Holbach, “we shall 
find that ignorance and fear created the gods; that fancy, en¬ 
thusiasm or deceit adorned or disfigured them; that weakness 
worships them; that credulity preserves them; and that cus¬ 
tom respects and tyranny supports them in order to make the 
blindness of men serve its own Interests.” Belief in God, said 
Diderot, is bound up with submission to autocracy; the two 
rise and fall together; and “men will never be free till the 
last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest.” 
The earth will come into its own only when heaven is destroyed. 
Materialism may be an over-simplification of the world—all 
matter is probably instinct with life, and it is impossible to 
reduce the unity of consciousness to matter and motion; but 
materialism is a good weapon against the Church, and must be 
used till a better one is found. Meanwhile one must spread 
knowledge and encourage industry; industry will make for 
peace, and knowledge will make a new and natural morality. 

These are the ideas which Diderot and d’Alembert labored 
to disseminate through the great Encyclopedie w’hich they is¬ 
sued, volume by volume, from 1752 to 1772. The Church had 
the first volumes suppressed; and as the opposition increased, 
Diderot’s comrades abandoned him; but he worked on angrily, 
invigorated by his rage. “I know nothing so indecent,” he 
said, “as these vague declamations of the theologians against 
reason. To hear them one would suppose that men could not 
enter into the bosom of Christianity except as a herd of cattle 
enters a stable.” It was, as Paine put it, the age of reason; 



254 


THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 


these men never doubted that the intellect was the ultimate 
human test of all truth and all good. Let reason be freed, 
they said, and it would in a few generations build Utopia. 
Diderot did not suspect that the erotic and neurotic Jean 
Jacques Rousseau (1712-78), whom he had just introduced 
to Paris, was carrying in his head, or in his heart, the seeds 
of a revolution against this enthronement of reason; a revolu¬ 
tion which, armed with the impressive obscurities of Imman¬ 
uel Kant, would soon capture every citadel of philosophy. 

Naturally enough, Voltaire, who was interested in every¬ 
thing, and had a hand in every fight, was caught up for a 
time in the circle of the Encyclopedists; they were glad to 
call liiin their leader; and he was not averse to their incense, 
though some of their ideas needed a little pruning. They 
asked him to write articles for their great undertaking, and 
he responded with a facility and fertility which delighted 
them. When he had finished this work he set about making 
an encyclopedia of his ow n, which he called a Philosophic Die- 
tionary; wuth unprecedented audacity he took subject after 
subject as the alphabet suggested them, and poured out under 
each heading part of his inexhaustible resources of knowledge 
and wisdom. Imagine a man writing on everything, and 
producing a classic none the less; the most readable and spark¬ 
ling of Voltaire’s works aside from his romances; every article 
a model of brevity, clarity, and wit. “Some men can be 
prolix in one small volume; Voltaire is terse through a hun¬ 
dred.” ^ Here at last Voltaire proves tliat he is a philos¬ 
opher. 

He begins, like Bacon, Descartes and Locke and all the 
moderns, wuth doubt and a (supposedly) clean slate. “I have 
taken as my patron saint St. Thomas of Didymus, who always 
insisted on an examination with his own hands.” - He thanks 
Bayle for having taught him the art of doubt. He rejects all 
systems, and suspects that “every chief of a sect in philosophy 

1 Robertson S7. 

^Philoioph^t Dictionary, New York^ 1901; vol. ix, p. 198. 



VOLTAIRE 


255 


has been a little of a quack.” ^ ‘‘The further I go, the more I 
am confirmed in the idea that systems of metaphysics arc for 
philosophers what novels are for women.” ^ It is only charla¬ 
tans who are certain. We know nothing of first principles. It 
is truly extravagant to define God, angels, and minds, and to 
know precisely why God formed the world, when we do not know 
why we move our arms at will. Doubt is not a very agreeable 
state, but certainty is a ridiculous one.” “I do not know 
how I was made, and how I was born. I did not know at all, 
during a quarter of my life, the causes of what I saw, or heard, 
or felt. ... I have seen that which is called matter, both as 
the star Sirius, and as the smallest atom which can be per¬ 
ceived with the microscope; and I do not know what this mat¬ 
ter is.” ^ 

He tells a story of “The Good Brahmin,” who says, “I 
wish I had never been born!” 

“Why so.^” said I. 

“Because,^’ he replied, “I have been studying these forty 
years, and I find that it has been so much time lost. ... I 
believe that I am composed of matter, but I have never been 
able to satisfy myself what it is that produces thought. I 
am even ignorant whether my understanding is a simple fac¬ 
ulty like tliat of walking or digesting, or if I think wdth my 
head in the same manner as I take hold of a thing with my 
hands. ... I talk a great deal, and when I have done 
speaking I remain confounded and ashamed of what I have 
said.” 

The same day I had a conversation with an old woman, his 
neighbor. I asked her if she had ever been unhappy for not 
understanding how her soul was made? She did not even 
comprehend my question. She had not, for the briefest mo¬ 
ment in her life, had a thought about these subjects with 
which the good Brahmin had so tormented himself. She be- 

1 42. 

^In Pellissier, 11, note. 

8 Robertson, 122. 

•^Dictionary, article “Ignorance.’* 



266 THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 

lieved in the bottom of her heart in the metamorphoses of 
Vishnu, and provided she could get some of the sacred water 
of the Ganges in which to make her ablutions, she thought 
herself the happiest of women. Struck with the happiness 
of this poor creature, I returned to my philosopher, whom 
I thus addressed: 

“Are you not ashamed to be thus miserable when, not fifty 
yards from you, there is an old automaton who thinks of 
nothing and lives contented?” 

“You are right,” he replied. “I have said to myself a 
thousand times that I should be happy if I were but as ig¬ 
norant as my old neighbor; and yet it is a happiness which 
I do not desire.” 

This reply of the Brahmin made a greater impression on 
me than anything that had passed.^ 

Even if Philosophy should end in the total doubt of Mon¬ 
taigne’s ^^Que sais-je?'^ “ It is man’s greatest adventure, and 
his noblest. Let us learn to be content with modest advances 
in knowledge, rather than be forever weaving new systems out 
of our mendacious imagination. 

We must not say. Let us begin by inventing principles 
whereby we may be able to explain everything; rather we 
must say, Let us make an exact analysis of the matter, and 
then we shall try to see, with much diffidence, if it fits in with 
any principle.^ . . . The Chancellor Bacon had shown the 
road which science might follow. . . . But then Descartes 
appeared and did just the contrary of what he should have 
done: instead of studying nature, he wished to divine her. 

. . . This best of mathematicians made only romances in 
philosophy.'* ... It is given us to calculate, to weigh, to 
measure, to observe; this is natural philosophy; almost all 
the rest is chimera.® 

1 Romaneea, 450 f. 

2 “What do I know?” 

* In Pellissier, 28, note. 

^ VoUaire^t Prate, ed. Cohn and Woodward; Boston, 1918; p. 54, 

«In Pellissier, 29-50. 



VOLTAIRE 


257 


Vni. EVRASEZ L’INEAME 

Under ordinary circumstances it is probable that Voltaire 
would never have passed out of the philosophic calm of this 
courteous scepticism to the arduous controversies of his later 
years. The aristocratic circles in wliich he moved agreed so 
readily with his point of view that there was no incentive to 
polemics; even the priests smiled with him over the difficulties 
of the faith, and cardinals considered whether, after all, they 
might not yet make him into a good Capuchin. What were 
the events that turned him from the polite persiflage of agnos¬ 
ticism to a bitter anti-clericalism which admitted no compro¬ 
mise, but waged relentless war to “crush the infamy” of ec- 
clesiasticism ? 

Not far from Ferney lay Toulouse, the seventh city of 
France. In Voltaire’s day the Catholic clergy enjoyed ab¬ 
solute sovereignty there; the city commemorated with fres¬ 
coes the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes (an edict which had 
given freedom of worship Protestants), and celebrated as a 
great feast the day of the Massacre of St. Bartholomew. No 
Protestant in Toulouse could be a lawyer, or a physician, or 
an apothecary, or a grocer, or a book-seller, or a printer; nor 
could a Catholic keep a Protestant servant or clerk—in 174)8 
a woman had been fined 3000 francs for using a Protestant 
midwife. 

Now it happened that Jean Calas, a Protestant of Toulouse, 
had a daughter who became a Catholic, and a son who hanged 
himself, presumably because of disappointment in business. 
There was a law in Toulouse that every suicide should be 
placed naked on a hurdle, with face down, drawn thus through 
the streets, and then hanged on a gibbet. The father, to avert 
this, asked his relatives and his friends to testify to a natural 
death. In consequence, rumor began to talk of murder, and 
to hint that the father had killed the son to prevent his im- 
min ent. conversion to Catholicism. Calas was arrested, put 



268 THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 

to the torture, and died soon after (1761). His family, ru¬ 
ined and hunted, fled to Ferncy, and sought the aid of Vol¬ 
taire. He took them into his home, comforted them, and 
marveled at the story of medieval persecution which they told. 

About the same time (1762) came the death of Elizabeth 
Sirvens; again rumor charged that she had been pushed into 
a well just as she was about to announce her conversion to 
Catholicism. That a timid minority of Protestants would 
hardly dare to behave in this way was a rational consideration, 
and therefore out of the purview of rumor.—In 1765 a young 
man by the name of La Barre, aged sixteen, was arrested on 
the charge of having mutilated crucifixes. Subjected to tor¬ 
ture, he confessed his guilt; his head was cut off, and his body 
was flung into the flames, while the crowd applauded. A copy 
of Voltaire’s Philosophic Dictionary, which had been found 
on the lad, was burned with him. 

For almost the first time in his life, Voltaire became a thor¬ 
oughly serious man. When d’Alembert, disgusted equally 
with state, church and people, wrote that hereafter he would 
merely mock at everything, Voltaire answered, “This is not 
a time for jesting; wit does not harmonize with massacres. 
. . . Is this the country of philosophy and pleasure.? It is 
rather the country of the Massacre of St. Bartholomew.” It 
was with Voltaire now as with Zola and Anatole France in the 
case of Dreyfus; this tyrannous injustice lifted him up; he 
ceased to be merely a man of letters, and became a man of ac¬ 
tion too; he laid aside philosophy for war, or rather turned his 
philosophy into relentless dynamite. “During this time not a 
smile escaped me without my reproaching myself for it as for 
a crime.” It was now that he adopted his famous motto, 
Ecrasez Vinfame, and stirred the soul of France against the 
abuses of the church. He began to pour forth such intellec¬ 
tual fire and brimstone as melted mitres and sceptres, broke 
the power of the priesthood in France, and helped to over¬ 
throw a throne. He sent out a call to his friends and fol¬ 
lowers, summoning them to battle: “Come, brave Diderot, 



VOLTAIRE 


S59 


intrepid d’Alembert, ally yourselves; . . . overwhelm the fa¬ 
natics and the knaves, destroy the insipid declamations, the 
miserable sophistries, the lying history, . . • the absurdities 
without number; do not let those who have sense be subjected 
to those who have none; and the generation which is being 
born will owe to us its reason and its liberty.” ^ 

Just at this crisis an effort was made to buy him off; 
through Mine, de Pompadour he received an offer of a cardi¬ 
nal’s hat as the reward of reconciliation with the Church.^ 
As if the rule of a few tongue-tied bishops could interest a 
man who was the undisputed sovereign of the world of intel¬ 
lect! Voltaire refused; and like another Cato, began to end 
all his letters with “Crush the infamy.” He sent out his 
Treatise on Toleration: he said he would have borne with the 
absurdities of dogma had the clergy lived up to their sermons 
and had they tolerated differences; but “subtleties of which 
not a trace can be found in the Gospels are the source of 
the bloody quarrels of Christian history.” ^ “The man who 
says to me, ‘Believe as I do, or God will damn you,’ will pres¬ 
ently say, ‘Believe as I do, or I shall assassinate you.’ ” ^ 
“By what right could a being created free force another to 
think like himself.^” ® “A fanaticism composed of supersti¬ 
tion and ignorance has been the sickness of all the centuries.” ® 
No such perpetual peace as the Abbe de St.-Pierre had pleaded 
for could ever be realized unless men learned to tolerate one 
another’s philosophic, political and religious differences. 
The very first step towards social health was the destruction 
of the ecclesiastical power in which intolerance had its root. 

The Treatise on Toleration was followed up with a Niagara 
of pamphlets, histories, dialogues, letters, catechisms, dia¬ 
tribes, squibs, sermons, verses, tales, fables, commentaries and 

1 Correspondence, Nov. 11, 1765. 

2Tallentyrp, 319; questioned by some. 

8 Selected Works, p. 62. 

4 76iU, 65. 

8 Esaai $ur lea Moeura; Prose Works, p. 14. 

« Ibid., p. 26, 



jeeo 


THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 


essays, under Voltaire’s own name and under a hundred pseu¬ 
donyms—‘Hhe most astonishing pell-mell of propaganda ever 
put out by one man.” ^ Never was philosophy phrased so 
clearly, and with such life; Voltaire writes so well that one 
does not realize that he is writing philosophy. He said of 
himself, over-modestly, “I express myself clearly enough: I 
am like the little brooks, which are transparent because they 
are not deep.” ^ And so he w’^as read; soon everybody, even 
the clergy, had his pamphlets; of some of them 300,000 copies 
were sold, though readers were far fewer then than now; noth¬ 
ing like it had ever been seen in the history of literature, 
‘‘Big books,” he said, “are out of fashion.” And so he sent 
forth his little soldiers, week after w^eek, month after month, 
resolute and tireless, surprising the world with the fertility of 
his thought and the magnificent energy of his seventy years. 
As Helvetius put it, Voltaire had crossed the Rubicon, and 
stood before Rome.*^ 

He began with a “higher criticism” of the authenticity and 
reliability of the Bible; he takes much of his material from 
Spinoza, more of it from the English Deists, most of it from 
the Critical Dictionary of Bayle (164!7-1706) ; but how bril¬ 
liant and fiery their material becomes in his hands! One pam¬ 
phlet is called “The Questions of Zapata,” a candidate for the 
priesthood; Zapata asks, innocently, “How shall we proceed 
to show that the Jews, whom we burn by the hundred, were for 
four thousand years the chosen people of God.^”'‘—and he 
goes on with questions which lay bare the inconsistencies of 
narrative and chronology in the Old Testament. “Wlien two 
Councils anathematize each other, as has often happened, 
which of them is infallible.^” At last, “Zapata, receiving no 
answer, took to preaching God in all simplicity. He an¬ 
nounced to men the common Father, the rewarder, punisher, 

1 Robertson, 112. 

2 In Sainte-Beuve, ii, 146. 

»In Pellissier, 101. 

Selected Works, p. 26. Voltaire himself was something of an anti- 
Semite, chiefly because of his not quite admirable dealings with the flnanciera. 



VOLTAIRE 


261 


and pardoner. He extricated the truth from the lies, and 
separated religion from fanaticism; he taught and practised 
virtue. He was gentle, kindly, and modest; and he was 
burned at Valladolid in the year of grace 1631.” ^ 

Under the article on ‘‘Prophecy” in the Philosophic Die- 
tionaryy he quotes Rabbin Isaac’s Bulwark of Faith against 
the application of Hebrew prophecies to Jesus, and then goes 
on, ironically: “Thus these blind interpreters of their own 
religion and their own language, combated with the Church, 
and obstinately maintained that this prophecy cannot in any 
manner regard Jesus Christ.”^ Those were dangerous days, 
in which one was compelled to say what one meant without 
saying it, and the shortest line to one’s purpose was anything 
but straight. Voltaire likes to trace Christian dogmas and 
rites to Greece, Egypt and India, and thinks that these adap¬ 
tations were not the least cause of the success of Christianity 
in the ancient world. Under the article on “Religion” he 
asks, slyly, “After our own holj^ religion, which doubtless is 
the only good one, what religion would be the least objection¬ 
able?”—and lie proceeds to describe a faith and worship di¬ 
rectly opposed to the Catholicism of his day. “Christianity 
must be divine,” he says, in one of his most unmeasured sallies, 
“since it has lasted 1,700 years despite the fact that it is so 
full of villainy and nonsense.”^ He shows how almost all 
ancient peoples had similar myths, and hastily concludes that 
the myths are therebj^' proved to have been the inventions of 
priests: “the first divine was the first rogue who met the first 
fool.” However, it is not religion itself which he attributes 
to tlie priests, but theology. It is slight differences in theol¬ 
ogy that have caused so many bitter disputes and religious 
wars. “It is not the ordinary people . • . who have raised 
these ridiculous and fatal quarrels, the sources of so many 
horrors. . • . Men fed by your labors in a comfortable idle- 

1 Ibid,, 26-35. 

fsix, 21 . 

8 EBsai But Ub Mosurs, part ii, ch. 9; In Morley 822. 





THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 


ness, enriched by your sweat and your misery, struggled for 
partisans and slaves; they inspired you with a destructive 
fanaticism, that they might be 5 ’^our masters; they made you 
superstitious not that you might fear God but that you might 
fear them.” ^ 

Let it not be supposed from all this that Voltaire was quite 
without religion. He decisively" rejects atheism; - so much 
so that some of the Encyclopedists turned against him, say¬ 
ing, ^‘Voltaire is a bigot, he believes in God.” In ‘‘The Ig¬ 
norant Philosopher” he reasons towards Spinozist pantlieism, 
but then recoils from it as almost atheism. He writes to Di¬ 
derot : 

I confess that I am not at all of the opinion of Saunder- 
son, who denies a God because he was born sightless. I am, 
perhaps, mistaken; but in his place 1 should recognize a 
great Intelligence who had given me so many substitutes for 
sight; and perceiving, on reflection, the wonderful relations 
between all things, I should have suspected a Workman in¬ 
finitely able. If it is very presumptuous to divine what He 
is, and why He has made everything that exists, so it seems 
to me very presumptuous to deny that He exists. I am ex¬ 
ceedingly anxious to meet and talk with you, whether you 
think yourself one of His works, or a particle drawn, of 
necessity, from eternal and necessary matter. Whatever 
you are, you are a worthy part of that great whole which I 
do not understand.® 

To Holbach he points out that the very title of his book, 
the System of Nature^ indicates a divine organizing intelli¬ 
gence. On the other hand he stoutly denies miracles and the 
supernatural eflficacy of prayer: 

I was at the gate of the convent when Sister Fessuc said 
to Sister Confite: ‘‘Providence takes a visible care of me; 

1 Selected Works, 63. 

2Cf. The Sage and the Atheist, chs. 9 and 10. 

• Voltaire in Hie Letters, p. 8L 



VOLTAIRE 


263 


jou know how I love my sparrow; he would have been dead if 

1 had not said nine Ave-AIarias to obtain his cure.” ... A 

metaphysician said to her: ‘‘Sister, there is nothing so 
good as Ave-Marias, especially when a girl pronounces them 
in Latin in the suburbs of Paris; but I cannot believe that 
God has occupied himself so much with your sparrow, pretty 
as it is; I pray you to believe that he has other things to at¬ 
tend to. . . .” Sister Fessue: “Sir, this discourse savors 
of heresy. My confessor . . . will infer that you do not 
believe in Providence.” Aletaphvsician: ‘"I believe in a gen¬ 

eral Providence, dear Sister, W'hich has laid down from all 
eternity the law which governs all things, like light from the 
sun; but I believe not that a particular Providence changes 
the economy of the world for your sparrow.” ^ 

“His Sacred Majesty, Chance, decides everything.” “ True 
prayer lies not in asking for a violation of natural law but in 
the acceptance of natural law as the unchangeable will of God.^ 
Similarly, he denies free will.** As to the soul he is an ag¬ 
nostic: “Four thousand volumes of metaphysics will not 
teach us what the soul is.” ^ Being an old man, he ^vould like 
to believe in immortality, but he finds it difficult. 

Nobody thinks of giving an immortal soul to the flea; 
why then to an elephant, or a monkey, or my valet . 

A child dies in its mother’s womb, just at the moment when 
it has received a soul. Will it rise again foetus, or boy, or 
man.^ To rise again—to be the same person *hat you were 
—you must have your memory perfectly fresh and present; 
for it is memory that makes your identity. your memory 
be lost, how will you be the same man.^ ^ . . . Why do man¬ 
kind flatter themselves that they alone are gifted with a 

^Dictionary, art ‘Trovidcnce.” 

2 Correspondence, Feb. 26, 1767. 

8 Romances, p. 412. 

■* The Ignorant Philosopher, 

8 Dictionary, nrt. “Soul.” 

« In Morlcy, ed. 1886; p. 286. 

Dictionary, art. “Resurrection.” 



S64 


THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 


spiritual and immortal principle? . . . Perhaps from their 
inordinate vanity. I am persuaded that if a peacock could 
speak he would boast of his soul, and would affirm that it 
inhabited his magnificent tail.^ 

And in this earlier mood he rejects also the view that belief 
in immortality is necessary for morality: the ancient Hebrews 
were without it, just when they were the “chosen people”; and 
Spinoza was a paragon of morality. 

In later days he changed his mind. He came to feel that 
belief in God has little moral value unless accompanied by be¬ 
lief in an immortality of punishment and reward. Perhaps, 
“for the common people {la canaille) a rew^arding and aveng¬ 
ing God” is necessary. Bayle had asked. If a society of athe¬ 
ists could subsist.^—Voltaire answers, “Yes, if they are also 
philosophers.” ^ But men are seldom philosophers; “if there 
is a hamlet, to be good it must have a religion.” ^ “I want 
my lawyer, my tailor, and my wife to believe in God,” says “A” 
in “A, B, C”; “so, I imagine, I shall be less robbed and less 
deceived.” “If God did not exist it would be necessary to 
invent him.” ^ “I begin to put more store on happiness and 
life than on truth”; ^—a remarkable anticipation, in the midst 
of the Enlightenment, of the very doctrine with which Imman¬ 
uel Kant was later to combat the Enlightenment. He defends 
himself gently against his friends the atheists; he addresses 
Holbach in the article on “God” in the Dictionary: 

You yourself say that belief in God • . . has kept some 
men from crime; this alone suffices me. When this belief 
prevents even ten assassinations, ten calumnies, I hold that 
all the world should embrace it. Religion, you say, has 
produced countless misfortunes; say rather the supersti¬ 
tion which reigns on our unhappy globe. This is the cruel- 

1 Bomancei, p. 411. 

2 In Pellissier, 169. 

8 Dictionary, art. “Religion.” 

4 In Pellissier, 172. 

8 G>rrespondence, Sept. 11, 178S. 



VOLTAIRE 


265 


est enemy of the pure worship due to the Supreme Being. 
Let us detest this monster which has always torn the bosom 
of its mother; those who combat it are the benefactors of the 
human race; it is a serpent which chokes religion in its em¬ 
brace; w^e must crush its head without wounding the mother 
whom it devours.’’ 

This distinction between superstition and religion is funda¬ 
mental with him. He accepts gladly the theology of the 
Sermon on the Mount, and acclaims Jesuo in tributes which 
could hardly be matched even with the ])ages of saintly ecstasy. 
He pictures Christ among the sages, weeping over the crimes 
that have been committed in his name. At last he built his 
owm church, witli the dedication, ‘"Deo erexit Voltaire”; the 
only church in Europe, he said, that was erected to God. 
He addresses to God a magnificent prayer; and in the articL- 
“Theist” he expounds his faith finally and clearly: 

The theist is a man firmly persuaded of the existence of a 
supreme being as good as he is powerful, who has formed all 
things . • . ; who punishes, without cruelty, all crimes, and 
recompenses with goodness all virtuous actions. . . . Re¬ 
united in this principle w ith the rest of the universe, he does 
not join any of the sects wdiich all contradict one another. 
His religion is the most ancient and the most widespread; 
for the simple worship of a God preceded all the systems of 
the world. He speaks a language whicli all peoples under¬ 
stand, while they do not understand one another. He has 
brothers from Pekin to C^ayenne, and he counts all the sages 
for his fellows. He believes that religion consists neither in 
the opinions of an unintelligible mctaphysic, nor in vain 
shows, but in worship and in justice. To do good is his wor¬ 
ship, to submit to God is his creed. The Mohammedan cries 
out to him, “Beware if you fail to make the pilgrimage to 
Mecca!”—the priest says to liim, “Curses on you if you do 
not make the trip to Notre Dame de Lorettel” He laughs 
at Lorette and at Mecca: but he succors the indigent and de¬ 
fends the oppressed. 



THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 


»66 


DC. VOLTAIRE AND ROUSSEAU 

Voltaire was so engrossed in the struggle against ecclesi¬ 
astical tyranny that during the later decades of his life he was 
compelled almost to withdraw from the war on political 
corruption and oppression. “Politics is not in my line: I 
have alwa 5 ^s confined myself to doing my little best to make 
men less foolish and more honorable.” He knew how complex 
a matter political philosophy can become, and he shed his 
certainties as he grew. “I am tired of all these people who 
govern states from the recesses of their garrets”; ^ “these 
legislators who rule the world at two cents a sheet; . . . un¬ 
able to govern their wives or their households they take great 
pleasure in regulating the universe.” “ It is impossible to 
settle these matters with simple and general formulae, or by 
dividing all people into fools and knaves on the one hand, 
and on the other, ourselves. “Truth has not tlie name of a 
party”; and he writes to Vauvenargues: “It is the duty of 
a man like you to have preferences, but not exclusions.” 

Being rich, he inclines towards conservatism, for no worse 
reason than that which impels the hungry man to call for a 
change. His panacea is the spread of property: ownership 
gives personality and an uplifting pride. “The spirit of 
property doubles a man’s strength. It is certain that the 
possessor of an estate will cultivate his own inheritance better 
than that of another.” 

He refuses to excite himself about forms of government. 
Theoretically he prefers a republic, but he knows its flaws: 
it permits factions which, if they do not bring on civil war, at 
least destroy national unity; it is suited only to small states 
protected by geographical situation, and as yet unspoiled and 
untorn with wealth; in general “men are rarely worthy to 
govern themselves.” Republics are transient at best; they 

1 Correspondence, Sept. 18, 1763. 

2 In Pellissier, 237, note, and 236, 

spellissier, 23; Morley, 86. 

^Dictionary, art. “Property.” 



VOLTAIRE 


267 


are the first form of society, arising from the union of 
families; the American Indians lived in tribal republics, and 
Africa is full of such democracies. But differentiation of 
economic status puts an end to these egalitarian governments; 
and differentiation is the inevitable accompaniment of develop¬ 
ment. ‘‘Which is better,’’ he asks, “a monarchy or a re¬ 
public.^”—and he replies: “For four thousand years this 
question has been tossed about. Ask the rich for an answer 
—they all want aristocracy. Ask the people—they want 
democracy. Only tlie monarchs want monarchy. How then 
has it come about that almost the entire earth is governed 
by monarchs Ask the rats who proposed to hang a bell 
about the neck of the cat.” ^ But when a correspondent 
argues that monarchy is the best form of government he an¬ 
swers: “Provided Marcus Aurelius is monarch; for other¬ 
wise, what difference does it make to a poor man whether he 
is devoured by a lion or by a hundred rats.^” ^ 

Likewise, he is almost indifferent to nationalities, like a 
traveled man; he has hardly any patriotism in the usual sense 
of that word. Patriotism commonly means, he says, that one 
hates every country but one’s own. If a man wishes his 
country to prosper, but never at the expense of other coun¬ 
tries, he is at the same time an intelligent patriot and a citizen 
of the universe.'^ Like a “good European” he praises Eng¬ 
land’s literature and Prussia’s king while France is at war with 
both England and Prussia. So long as nations make a prac¬ 
tice of war, he says, there is not much to choose among them. 

For he hates war above all else. “War is the greatest of 
all crimes; and yet there is no aggressor who does not color 
his crime with the pretext of justice.” ^ “It is forbidden to 
kill; therefore all murderers are punished unless thej' kill in 
large numbers and to the sound of trumpets.” ® He has a 

'^Dictionary, art. “Fatherland.” 

2 Correspondence, June 20, 1777. 

« Pellissier, 222. 

^ The Ignorani Philosopher. 

^Dictionary, art. “War.” 



THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 


^68 

terrible “General Reflection on Man,” at the end of the article 
on “Man” in the Dictionary: 

Twenty years are required to bring man from the state 
of a plant, in which he exists in the womb of liis mother, and 
from the state of an animal, which is his condition in in¬ 
fancy, to a state in which the maturity of reason begins to 
make itself felt. Thirty centuries are necessary in which to 
discover even a little of his structure. An eternity would 
be required to know anything of his soul. But one moment 
suffices in which to kill him. 

Does he therefore think of revolution as a remedy? No. 
For first of all, he distrusts the people: “When the people 
undertake to reason, all is lost.” ^ The great majority are 
ahvays too busy to perceive the truth until change has made 
the truth an error; and their intellectual history is merely the 
replacement of one myth by another. “When an old error 
is established, politics uses it as a morsel which the people 
have put into their own mouths, until another superstition 
comes along to destroy this one, and politics profits from the 
second error as it did from the first.” - And then again, 
inequality is written into the very structure of society, and 
can hardly be eradicated wdiile men arc men and life is a 
struggle. “Those who say that all men are equal speak the 
greatest truth if they mean that all men have an equal riglit 
to liberty, to the possession of their goods, and to the pro¬ 
tection of the laws”; but “equality is at once the most natural 
and the most chimerical thing in the world: natural wlicn it is 
limited to rights, unnatural when it attempts to level goods 
and powers.”^ “Not all citizens can be equally strong; but 
they can all be equally free; it is this which the English have 
won. ... To be free is to be subject to nothing but the 
law^s.” ^ This was the note of the liberals, of Turgot and 
Condorcet and Mirabeau and the other followers of Voltaire 

1 Correspondence, April 1, ITb'd. 

2 Voltaire’s Prose, p. 15. 

^Dictionary, art. “Equality.” 

4 Art. “Government.” 



VOLTAIRE 


269 


who hoped to make a peaceful revolution; it could not cjuite 
satisfy the oppressed, who called not so much for 1 liberty as 
for equality, equality even at the cost of liberty. Rousseau, 
voice of the common man, sensitive to the class distinctions 
which met him at every turn, demaiuled a leveling; and when 
the Revolution fell into the hands of his followers, Marat and 
Robespierre, equality had its turn, and liberty was guillotined. 

Voltaire w^as sceptical of Utopias to be fashioned by human 
legislators wdio would create a brand new^ world out of their 
imaginations. Society is a growth in time, not a syllogism in 
logic; and when the past is pul out tlirough the door it comes 
in at the wnndow\ The problem is to show' preciselj" by what 
changes we can diminish misery and injustice in the world in 
which w'c actually live.^ In the ‘‘Historical Eulogy of Rea¬ 
son,” Truth, the daughter of Reason, voices her joy at the 
accession of Louis XVI, and her expectation of great reforms; 
to which Reason replies: “My daughter, you know' well that 
I too desire these things, and more. Rut all this requires time 
and thought. I am always happy when, amid many disap¬ 
pointments, I obtain some of the amelioration I longed for.” 
Yet Voltaire too rejoiced when Turgot came to power, and 
WTote: “We are in the golden age up to our necks!” “—now 
w^ould come the reforms he had advocated: juries, abolition of 
the tithe, an exemption of the })oor from all taxes, etc. And 
had he not w'ritten that famous letter?—- 

Everything that I see ap])pars to be throwing broadcast 
the seed of a revolution which must some day inevitably 
come, but which I shall not have the pleasure of witnessing. 
The French ahvays come late to things, but they do come at 
last. Light extends so from neighbor to neighbor, that 
there will be a splendid outburst on the first occasion ; and 
then there will be a rare commotion! The young are for¬ 
tunate: they will see fine things.® 

1 Pellissier, 283. 

2 In Sainte-Beuve, i. 234. 

2 Correspondence, April 2^ 1764. 



270 THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 

Yet he did not quite realize what was happening about him; 
and he never for a moment supposed that in this ^‘splendid 
outburst” all France would accept enthusiastically the phi¬ 
losophy of this queer Jean Jacques Rousseau who, from Geneva 
and Paris, was thrilling the world with sentimental romances 
and revolutionary pamphlets. The complex soul of France 
seemed to have divided itself into these two men, so different 
and yet so French. Nietzsche speaks of “Za gay a scienza, the 
light feet, wit, fire, grace, strong logic, arrogant intellec¬ 
tuality, the dance of the stars”—surely he was thinking of 
Voltaire. Now beside Voltaire put Rousseau: all heat and 
fantasy, a man with noble and jejune visions, the idol of 
la hourgeoise gentUc-femine^ announcing like Pascal that the 
heart has its reasons which the head can never understand. 

In these two men Ave see again the old clash between intellect 
and instinct. Voltaire believed in reason always: “we can, 
by speech and pen, make men more enlightened and better.” ^ 
Rousseau had little faith in reason; he desired action; the risks 
of revolution did not frighten him; he relied on the sentiment 
of brotherhood to re-unite the social elements scattered by 
turmoil and the uprooting of ancient habits. Let laws be 
removed, and men would pass into a reign of equality and 
justice. When he sent to Voltaire his Discourse on the Origin 
of Inequality^ with its arguments against civilization, letters, 
and science, and for a return to the natural condition as seen 
in savages and animals, Voltaire replied: “I have received, 
sir, your new book against the human species, and I thank 
you for it. . . . No one has ever been so witty as you are in 
trying to turn us into brutes; to read your book makes one 
long to go on all fours. As, however, it is now some sixty 
years since I gave up the practice, I feel that it is unfor¬ 
tunately impossible for me to resume it.” - Ho was chagrined 
to see Rousseau’s passion for savagery continue into the 
Social Contract: “Ah, Monsieur,” he writes to M. Bordes, 

1 Selected Works, 62. 

2 Correspondence, Aug. 80, 1755. 



VOLTAIRE 


271 


^‘you sec now that Jean Jacques resembles a pliIIoso])iic‘r as 
a monkey resembles a man.” ^ He is the “dog of Diogenes 
gone mad.” ^ Yet lie attacked the Swiss authorities for 
burning the book, holding to his famous principle: “I do 
not agree with a word that you say, but I will defend to the 
death your right to say it.” ^ And when Rousseau was 
fleeing from a hundred enemies Voltaire sent him a cordial 
invitation to come and stay with him at Les Delices. What a 
spectacle that would have been! 

Voltaire was convinced that all this denunciation of civili¬ 
zation was boyisli nonsense; that man was Incomparably better 
off under civilization than under savagery; he informs Rous¬ 
seau that man is by nature a beast of prey, and that civilized 
society means a chaining of this beast, a mitigation of his 
brutality, and the possibility of the development, through 
social order, of the intellect and its joys. He agrees that 
things are bad: “A government in which it is permitted a 
certain class of men to say, ‘Let those pay taxes w^ho work; 
we should not pay, because we do not work,’ is no better than 
a government of Hottentots.” Paris has its redeeming 
features, even amidst its corruption. In “The World as It 
Goes,” Voltaire tells how an angel sent Babouc to report on 
whether the city of Persepolis should be destroyed; Babouc 
goes, and is horrified with the vices he discovers; but after 
a time “he began to grow fond of a city the inhabitants of 
w^hich WTre polite, affable and beneficent, though they were 
fickle, slanderous and vain. He was much afraid that Per¬ 
sepolis would be condemned. He was even afraid to give in 
his account. This he did, however, in the following manner. 
He caused a little statue, composed of different metals, of 
earth and of stones (the most precious and the most vile) to 
be cast by one of the best founders of the city, and carried 
it to the angel. ‘Wilt thou break,’ said he, ‘this pretty statue 
because it is not wholly composed of gold and diamonds ?’ ” 

ilbid., Mar. 1765. 

* In Sainte-Beuve, i. 280, 

• Voltaire in Ui$ Letter$, 65. 



2T2 


THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 


The angel resolved to think no more of destroying Persepolis, 
but to leave “the world as it goes.” After all, when one tries 
to change institutions without having changed the nature of 
men, that unchanged nature will soon resurrect those insti¬ 
tutions. 

Here was the old vicious circle; men form institutions, and 
institutions form men; where could change break into this 
ring.^ Voltaire and the liberals tliouglit that intellect could 
break the ring by educating and changing men, slowly and 
peacefully; Rousseau and tlic radicals felt that the ring could 
be broken only by instinctive and passionate action that would 
break down the old institutions and build, at the dictates of 
the heart, new ones under which liberty, equality and 
fraternity would reign. Perhaps the truth lay above the 
divided camps: that instinct must destroy the old, but that 
only intellect can build the new. Certainly the seeds of re¬ 
action lay fertile in the radicalism of Rousseau: for instinct 
and sentiment are ultimately loyal to the ancient past which 
has begotten them, and to which they are stereotyped adapta¬ 
tions: after the catharsis of revolution the needs of the heart 
W'ould recall supernatural religion and the “good old days” 
of routine and peace; after Rousseau would come Chateau¬ 
briand, and De Stael, and De Maistre, and Kant. 

X. DENOUEMENT 

Meanwhile the old “laughing philosopher” was cultivating 
his garden at Ferney; this “is the best thing we can do on 
earth.” He had asked for a long life: “my fear is that I 
shall die before I have rendered service”; ^ but surely now he 
had done his share. The records of his generosity are endless, 
“Everyone, far or near, claimed his good offices; people con¬ 
sulted him, related the wrongs of which they were the victims, 
and solicited the help of his pen and his credit.” ^ Poor 

1 Correspondence, Aug. 25, 1766. 

2 Sainte-Beuve, i, 235. 



VOLTAIRE 273 

people guilty of some misdemeanor were his especial care; he 
would secure a pardon for them and then set them up in some 
honest occupation, meanwhile watching and counselling them. 
When a young couple who had robbed him went down on tlieir 
knees to beg his forgiveness, he knelt to raise them, telling 
them that his pardon w'as freely tlieirs, and tliat tliey should 
kneel only for God’s.^ One of his characteristic undertak¬ 
ings was to bring up, educate, and provide a dowry for the 
destitute niece of Corneille. “The little good I have done,” 
he said, “is my best work. . . . When I am attacked I fight 
like a devil; I yield to no one; but at bottom 1 am a good 
devil, and I end by laughing.” “ 

In 1770 his friends arranged a subscription to have a bust 
made of him. The rich had to be forbidden to give moic than 
a mite, for thousands asked the honor of contributing. Fred¬ 
erick inquired how much he should give; he was told, ‘‘A 
crown piece, sire, and your name.” Voltaire congratulated 
him on adding to his cultivation of the other sciences this en¬ 
couragement of anatomy by subscribing for tlic statue of a 
skeleton. He demurred to the whole undertaking on the 
ground that he had no face left to be modeled. ‘‘You would 
hardly guess where it ought to be. My eyes have sunk in 
three inches; my cheeks are like old parchment; . . . the few 
teeth I had are gone.” To which d’Alembert replied: 
‘‘Genius . . . has always a countenance which genius, its 
brother, will easily find.” ^ When his pet, Bellet-Bonne, 
kissed him, he said it was “Life kissing Death.” 

He was now eighty-three; and a longing came over him to 
see Paris before he died. The doctors advised him not to 
undertake so arduous a trip; but “if I want to commit a 
folly,” lie answered, “nothing will prevent me”; he had lived 
so long, and worked so hard, tliat perhaps he felt he had a 
right to die in his own way, and in that electric Paris from 

1 Robertson, 71. 

2 Ibid., 07. 

8 Tallentyre, 497, 



274 THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 

which he had been so long exiled. And so he went, wearf 
mile after weary mile, across France; and when his coach en¬ 
tered the capital his bones hardly held together. He went at 
once to the friend of his youth, d’Argental: “I have left off 
dying to come and see you,” he said. The next day his room 
was stormed hy three hundred visitors, who welcomed him as a 
king; Louis XVI fretted w’ith jealousy. Benjamin Franklin 
was among the callers, and brought his grandson for Voltaire’s 
blessing; the old man put his thin hands upon the youth’s head 
and bade him dedicate himself to “God and Liberty.” 

He was so ill now that a priest came to shrive him. “From 
w’hom do you come, M. I’Abbe?” asked Voltaire. “From God 
Himself,” was the answer. “Well, well, sir,” said Voltaire; 
“j'our credentials ^ The priest went away without his prey. 
Later Voltaire sent for another ahhe, Gautier, to come and 
hear his confession; Gautier came, hut refused Voltaire absolu¬ 
tion until he should sign a profession of full faith in Catholic 
doctrine. Voltaire rebelled; Instead, he drew up a statement 
which he gave to his secretary, Wagner: “I die adoring God, 
loving my friends, not hating my enemies, and detesting 
superstition. (Signed) Voltaire, February 28, 1778.” “ 

Though sick and tottering, he was driven to the Academy, 
through tumultuous crowds that clambered on his carriage 
and tore into souvenirs the precious pelisse which Catherine 
of Russia had given him. “It w'as one of the historic events 
of the century. No great captain returning from a pro¬ 
longed campaign of difficulty and hazard crowned hy the most 
glorious victory, ever received a more splendid and far- 
resounding greeting.” ® At the Academy he proposed a 
revision of the French dictionary; he spoke with youthful fire, 
and offered to undertake all such part of the work as would 
come under the letter A. At the close of the sitting he said, 
“Gentlemen, I thank you in the name of the alphabet.” To 

1 Tallentyre, 685. 

3 Ibid., 538. 

• Morley, 262. 



VOLTAIRE 275 

which the chairman, Chastellux, replied: “And we thank 
you in the name of letters.” 

Meanwhile his play, Irene, was being performed at the 
theatre; against the advice of the physicians again, he insisted 
on attending. The play was poor; but people marveled not 
so much that a man of eighty-three should ^\rite a poor play, 
but that he should Avrite any play at all; ^ and they drowned the 
speech of the players with rcj)eated demonstrations in honor 
of the author. A stranger, entering, sujiposed himself to be 
in a madhouse, and rushed hack frightened into the street.- 

When the old patriarch of letters went home that evening he 
was almost reconciled to death. He knew that he was ex¬ 
hausted now; tliat he had used to the full that wild and 
marvelous energy which nature had given to him perhaps 
more than to any man before him. He struggled as he felt 
life being torn from him; but death could defeat even Voltaire. 
The end came on May 30, 1778. 

He was refused Christian burial in Paris; hut his friends 
set him up grimly in a carriage, and got him out of the city 
by pretending that he was alive. At Scellieres they found 
a priest who understood that rules were not made for geniuses; 
and the body was buried in holy ground. In 1791 the 
National Assembly of the triumphant Revolution forced 
Louis XVI to recall Voltaire’s remains to the Pantheon. The 
dead ashes of the great flame that had been were escorted 
through Paris by a procession of 100,000 men and women, 
while 600,000 flanked the streets. On the funeral car were 
the w’ords: “He gave the human mind a great impetus; he 
prepared us for freedom.” On his tombstone only three 
words were necessary: 

HEBE XIES VOLTAIRE 


I Tallentyre, 626. 
^Ibid,, 545 . 



CHAPTER VI 


IMMANUEL KANT AND GERMAN IDEALISM 

I. ROADS TO KANT 

N ever lias a system of thought so dominated an epoch 
as the philosophy of Immanuel Kant dominated the 
thouglit of the nineteenth century. After almost 
three-score years of quiet and secluded development, the un¬ 
canny Scot of Koenigsberg roused the world from its ‘^dog¬ 
matic slumber,” in 1781, with his famous Critique of Pure 
Reason; and from that year to our own tlie “critical phi¬ 
losophy” has ruled the speculative roost of Europe. Tlie 
philosophy of Schopenhauer rose to brief power on tlie 
romantic wave that broke in 1848; the theory of evolution 
swept everything before it after 1859; and tlie exhilarating 
iconoclasm of Nietzsche won tlie center of the philosophic 
stage as the century came to a close. But these were second¬ 
ary and surface developments; underneath them the strong 
and steady current of the Kantian movement flowed on, 
always wider and deeper; until today its essential theorems are 
the axioms of all mature philosophy. Nietzsche takes Kant 
for granted, and passes on; ^ Schopenhauer calls the Critique 
“the most important work in German literature,” and con¬ 
siders any man a child until he has understood Kant; ^ 
Spencer could not understand Kant, and for precisely that 
reason, perhaps, fell a little short of the fullest philosophic 
stature. To adapt Hegel’s phrase about Spinoza: to be a 
philosopher, one must first have been a Kantian. 

Therefore let us become Kantians at once. But it cannot 

1 The Will to Power, vol. ii, part I. 

a The World as Will and Idea, London, 1883; vol. ii, p. 30. 

276 



KANT AND GERMAN IDEALISM 


be done at once, apparently; for in philosophy, as in politics, 
the longest distance between two points is a straiglit line. 
Kant is the last person In the world wliom we should read on 
Kant. Our pliilosopher is like and unlike Jehovah; he sjieah^ 
through clouds, but without the illumination of the lightning- 
flash. lie disdains examples and t!ic concrete; they would 
have made his book too long, he argued.^ (So abbreviated, 
it contains some 800 pages.) Only professional philosophers 
were exjiected to read him; and these would not need illustra¬ 
tions. Yet when Kant gave the IMS. of the Critique to his 
friend Herz, a man much versed in speculation, Ilcrz returned 
it half read, saying he feared insanity if he went on with it. 
What shall we do with such a pliilosopher.? 

Let us approach him deviously and cautioush% beginning 
at a safe and respectful distance from liim; let us start at 
various points on the circumference of the subject, and then 
gro])e our way towards tliat subtle center where the most 
difficult of all philosophies has its secret and its treasure. 

Jf. From Voltaire to Kant 

The road here is from theoretical reason without religious 
faith, to religious faith without theoretical reason. Voltaire 
means the Enlightenment, the Encyclopedia, the Age of 
Reason. The warm enthusiasm of Francis Bacon had in¬ 
spired all Europe (except Rousseau) with unquestioning con¬ 
fidence in the jiower of science and logic to solve at last all 
problems, and illustrate the ‘‘infinite perfectibility” of man. 
Condorcet, in prison, wrote his Historical Tableau of the 
Progress of the Human Spirit (1T93), which spoke the sub¬ 
lime trust of the eighteenth century in knowledge and reason, 
and asked no other key to Utopia than universal education. 
Even the steady Germans had their Aufklanutg, their 
rationalist, Christian Wolff, and their hopeful Lessing. And 

^The Critique of Pure Reason, London, 1881; vol. ii, p. xxvii. All subse* 
guent references are to volume two. 



878 THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 

the excitable Parisians of the Revolution dramatized this 
apotheosis of the intellect by worshipping the ‘‘Goddess of 
Reason,”—impersonated by a charming lady of the streets. 

In Spinoza this faith in reason had begotten a magnificent 
structure of geometry and logic: the universe was a mathe¬ 
matical system, and could be described a priori^ by pure 
deduction from accepted axioms. In Hobbes tlie rationalism 
of Bacon had become an uncompromising atheism and ma¬ 
terialism; again nothing was to exist but “atoms and the 
void.” From Spinoza to Diderot the wrecks of faith lay in 
the wake of advancing reason: one by one the old dogmas dis¬ 
appeared; the Gothic cathedral of medieval belief, with its 
delightful details and grotesques, collapsed; the ancient 
God fell from his throne along with the Bourbons, heaver 
faded into mere skj^, and hell became only an emotional 
expression. Helvetius and Holbach made atheism so fashion¬ 
able in the salons of France that even the clergy took it up; 
and La Mettrie went to peddle it in Germany, under the 
auspices of Prussia’s king. When, in 1784, Lessing shocked 
Jacobi by announcing himself a follower of Spinoza, it was a 
sign that faith had reached its nadir, and that Reason was 
triumphant. 

David Hume, who played so vigorous a role in the Enlight¬ 
enment assault on supernatural belief, said that when reason 
is against a man, he will soon turn against reason. Religious 
faith and hope, voiced in a hundred thousand steeples rising 
out of the soil of Europe everywhere, were too deeply rooted 
in the institutions of society and in the heart of man, to 
permit their ready surrender to the hostile verdict of reason; 
it was inevitable that this faith and this hope, so condemned, 
would question the competence of the judge, and would call 
for an examination of reason as well as of religion. What 
was this intellect that proposed to destroy with a syllogism the 
beliefs of thousands of years and millions of men? Was it 
infallible? Or was it one human organ like any other, with 
Strictest limits to its functions and its powers? The time 



KANT AND GERMAN IDEALISM 


279 


had come to judge this judge, to examine this rutliless Rev¬ 
olutionary Tribunal that was dealing out death so lavishly 
to every ancient hope. The time had come for a critique 
of reason. 


From Locke to Kant 

The way had been prepared for siicli an examination by 
the work of Locke, Berkeley and Ilunic; and yet, apparently, 
their results too were hostile to religion. 

John Locke (1632-1704) had proposed to apply to psy¬ 
chology the inductive tests and methods of Francis Bacon; , 
in his great Essay on Human Understanding (16S9) reason, 
for the first time in modern thought, had turned in upon 
itself, and philosophy had begun to scrutinize the instrument 
which it so long had trusted. This introspective movement 
in philosophy grew step by step with the introspective novel as 
developed by Richardson and Rousseau; just as the senti¬ 
mental and emotional color of Clarissa Harlowe and La 
Nouvelle Heloise had its counterpart in the philosophic 
exaltation of instinct and feeling above intellect and reason. 

How does knowledge arise? Have we, as some good people 
suppose, innate ideas, as, for example, of right and wrong, 
and God,—ideas inherent in the mind from birth, prior lO all 
experience? Anxious theologians, worried lest belief in the 
Deity should disappear because God had not yet been seen 
in any telescope, had thought that faith and morals might be 
strengthened if their central and basic ideas were shown to 
be inborn in every normal soul. But Locke, good Christian 
though he was, ready to argue most eloquently for ‘‘The Rea¬ 
sonableness of Christianity,” could not accept these supposi¬ 
tions; he announced, quietly, that all our knowledge comes 
from experience and through our senses—that “tliere is noth¬ 
ing in the mind except what was first in the senses.” The 
mind is at birth a clean sheet, a tahida rasa; and sense- 
experience writes upon it in a thousand ways, until sensation 



S80 


THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 


begets memory and memory begets ideas. All of which 
seemed to lead to the startling conclusion that since only ma¬ 
terial things can effect our sense, we know nothing but matter, 
and must accept a materialistic philosophy. If sensations arc 
the stuff of thought, the hasty argued, matter must be the 
material of mind. 

Not at all, said Bishop George Berkeley (1684-1763) ; 
this Lockian analysis of knowledge proves rather that matter 
does not exist except as a form of mind. It was a brilliant 
idea—to refute materialism by the simple expedient of show¬ 
ing that we know of no such thing as matter; in all Europe 
only a Gaelic imagination could have conceived this meta¬ 
physical magic. But see how obvious it is, said the Bishop: 
has not Locke told us that all our knowledge is derived from 
sensation? Therefore all our knowledge of anything is 
merely our sensations of it, and the ideas derived from these 
sensations. A “thing” is merely a bundle of perceptions— 
i. e., classified and interpreted sensations. You protest that 
your breakfast is much more substantial than a bundle of 
perceptions; and that a hammer that teaches you carpentry 
through your thumb has a most magnificent materiality. 
But your breakfast is at first nothing but a congeries of 
sensations of sight and smell and touch; and then of taste; 
and then of internal comfort and warmth. Likewise, the 
hammer is a bundle of sensations of color, size, shape, weight, 
touch, etc.; its reality for you is not in its materiality, but in 
the sensations that come from your thumb. If you had no 
senses, the hammer would not exist for you at all; it might 
strike your dead thumb forever and yet win from you not the 
slightest attention. It is only a bundle of sensations, or a 
bundle of memories; it is a condition of the mind. All 
matter, so far as we know it, is a mental condition; and the 
only reality that we know directly is mind. So much for 
materialism. 

But the Irish Bishop had reckoned without the Scotch 
sceptic. David Hume (1711—1776) at the age of twenty** 



KANT AND GERMAN IDEALISM 281 

six shocked all Christendom with his highly heretical Treatise 
on Human Nature ^—one of the classics and marvels of modern 
philosophy. We know the mind, said Hume, only as we 
know matter: by perception, though it be in this case internal. 
Never do we perceive any such entity as tlie ‘‘mind’’; we 
perceive merely separate ideas, memories, feelings, etc. The 
mind is not a substance, an organ that has ideas; it is only 
an abstract name for the series of ideas; the perceptions, 
memories and feelings arc tlie mind; there is no observable 
“soul” behind the j)rocesses of tiiouglit. The result appeared 
to be that Hume had as eiBfectually destroyed mind as 
Berkeley had destroyed matter. Nothing was left; and phi¬ 
losophy found itself in the midst of ruins of its own making. 
No wonder that a wit advised the abandonment of the con¬ 
troversy, saying: “No master, never mind.” 

But Hume was not content to destroy orthodox religion by 
dissipating the concept of soul; he proposed also to destroy 
science by dissolving the concept of law. Science and phi¬ 
losophy alike, since Bruno and Galileo, had been making much 
of natural law, of “necessity” in the sequence of effect upon 
cause; Spinoza had reared his majestic metaphysics upon this 
proud conception. But observe, said Hume, that we never 
perceive causes, or laws; we perceive events and sequences, 
and infer causation and necessity; a law is not an eterr. d and 
necessary decree to which events are subjected, but merely 
a mental summary and shorthand of our kaleidoscopic experb 
ence; we have no guarantee tliat the sequences hitherto ob¬ 
served will re-appear unaltered in future experience. “Law” 
is an observed custom in the sequence of events; but there is no 
“necessity” in custom. 

Only mathematical formulas have necessity"—they alone are 
inherently and unchangeably true; and this merely because 
such formulae are tautological—the predicate is already con¬ 
tained in the subject; “3X3 = 9” is an eternal and necessary 
truth only because “8 X 3” and “9’' are one and the same 
thing differently expressed; the predicate adds notliing to 



282 THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 

the subject. Science, then, must limit itself strictly to 
Inathematics and direct experiment; it cannot trust to un¬ 
verified deduction from “laws.” “When we run through 
libraries, persuaded of these principles,” writes our uncanny 
sceptic, “what havoc must we make! If we take in our hands 
any volume of school metaphysics, for instance, let us ask, 
‘Does it contain any abstract reasoning concerning quantity 
or number?’ No. ‘Does it contain any experimental reason¬ 
ing concerning matter of fact and existence?’ No. Commit 
it then to the fiames, for it can contain nothing but sophistry 
and illusion.” ^ 

Imagine how the ears of the orthodox tingled at these words. 
Here the epistemological tradition—the inquiry into the na¬ 
ture, sources, and validity of knowledge—had ceased to be a 
support to religion; the sword with which Bishop Berkeley 
had slain the dragon of materialism had turned against the 
immaterial mind and the immortal soul; and in the turmoil 
science itself had suffered severe injury. No wonder that 
when Immanuel Kant, in 1776, read a German translation 
of the works of David Hume, he was shocked by these results, 
and was roused, as he said, from the “dogmatic slumber” in 
which he had assumed without question the essentials of reli¬ 
gion and the bases of science. Were both science and faith 
to be surrendered to the sceptic? What could be done to save 
them? 


3. From Rousseau to Kant 

To the argument of the Enlightenment, that reason makes 
for materialism, Berkeley had essayed the answer that matter 
does not exist. But this had led, in Hume, to the retort that 
by the same token mind does not exist either. Another an¬ 
swer was possible—that reason is no final test. There are 
some theoretical conclusions against which our whole being 
rebels; we have no right to presume that these demands of our 
nature must be stifled at the dictates of a logic which is after 

1 Quoted In Royce, Th» Spirit of Modem Philoeophy, Boston, 1892; p. 08. 



KANT AND GERMAN IDEALISM 285 

all but the recent construction of a frail and deceptive part 
of us. How often our instincts and feelings push aside the 
little syllogisms which would like us to behave like geometrical 
figures, and make love with mathematical precision! Some¬ 
times, no doubt,—and particularly in the novel complexities 
and artificialities of urban life,—reason is the better guide; 
but in the great crises of life, and in the great problems of 
conduct and belief, we trust to our feelings rather than to our 
diagrams. If reason is against religion, so much the worse 
for reason! 

Such, in effect, was the argument of Jean Jacques Rous¬ 
seau (1712-1778), who almost alone, in France, fought the 
materialism and atheism of the Enlightenment. What a fate 
for a delicate and neurotic nature, to have been cast amidst 
the robust rationalism and the almost brutal hedonism ^ of 
the Encyclopedists! Rousseau had been a sickly youth, 
driven into brooding and introversion by his physical weak¬ 
ness and the unsympathetic attitude of his parents and 
teachers; he had escaped from the stings of reality into a hot¬ 
house world of dreams, where the victories denied him in life 
and love could be had for the imagining. His Confessions 
reveal an unreconciled complex of the most refined senti¬ 
mentality with an obtuse sense of decency and honor; and 
through it all an unsullied conviction of his moral superiority.^ 

In 1749 the Academy of Dijon offered a prize for an essay 
on the question, ^‘Has the Progress of the Sciences and the 
Arts Contributed to Corrupt, or to Purify, Morals Rous¬ 
seau’s essay won the prize. Culture is much more of an evil 
than a good, he argued—with all the intensity and sincerity of 
one who, finding culture out of his reach, proposed to prove it 
worthless. Consider the frightful disorders which printing 
has produced in Europe. Wherever philosophy arises, the 
moral health of the nation decays. ‘‘It was even a saying 
among the philosophers themselves that since learned men had 

1 Tiie doctrine that all behavior is motived by the pursuit of pleasure. 

* Cf. ConfessioM, bk. X; vol. ii, p. 184. 



284 THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 

appeared, honest men were nowhere to be found.” “I venture 
to declare that a state of reflection is contrary to nature; and 
that a thinking man” (an “intellectual,” as we would now 
say) “is a depraved animal.” It would be better to abandon 
our over-rapid development of the intellect, and to aim rather 
at training the heart and the affections. Education does not 
make a man good, it only makes him clever—usually for mis¬ 
chief. Instinct and feeling are more trustworthy than reason. 

In his famous novel. La Nouvelle Heloisc (1761), Rousseau 
illustrated at great length the superiority of feeling to intel¬ 
lect; sentimentality became the fashion among the ladies of 
the aristocracy, and among some of the men; France was for 
a century watered with literary, and then with actual, tears; 
and the great movement of the European intellect in the 
eighteenth century gave way to the romantic emotional litera¬ 
ture of 1789-1848. The current carried with it a strong 
revival of religious feeling; the ecstasies of Chateaubriand’s 
Genie du Christianisnie (1802) were merely an echo of the 
“Confession of Faith of the Savoyard Vicar” which Rousseau 
included in his epochal essay on education —Emile (1762). 
The argument of the “Confession” was briefly this: that 
though reason might be against belief in God and immortality, 
feeling was overwhelmingly in their favor; why should we not 
trust in instinct here, rather than yield to the despair of an 
arid scepticism? 

When Kant read Emile he omitted his daily walk under the 
linden trees, in order to finish the book at once. It was an 
event in his life to find here another man who was groping his 
way out of the darkness of atheism, and who boldly affirmed 
the priority of feeling over theoretical reason in these supra- 
sensual concerns. Here at last was the second half of the 
answer to irreligion; now finally all the scoffers and doubters 
would be scattered. To put these threads of argument to¬ 
gether, to unite the ideas of Berkeley and Hume with the feel¬ 
ings of Rousseau, to save religion from reason, and yet at the 



KANT AND GERMAN IDEALISl^I 285 

same time to save science from scepticism—this was the mis¬ 
sion of Immanuel Kant. 

Eat wlio was Immanuel Kant.'^ 

II. KANT HIMSELF 

He was born at Konigsberg, Prussia, in 1724. Except 
for a short ])eriod of tutoring in a nearby village, this quiet 
little professor, who loved so much to lecture on the geography 
and ethnology of distant lands, never left his native city. 
He came of a poor family, which had left Scotland some 
hundred years before Immanuel’s birth. His mother was a 
Pietist,—i. e., a member of a religious sect which, like the 
Methodists of England, insisted on the full strictness and 
rigor of religious practice and belief. Our philosopher was 
so immersed in religion from morning to night that on the one 
hand he experienced a reaction which led him to stay away 
from church all through his adult life; and on the other hand 
he kept to the end the sombre stamp of the German Puritan, 
and felt, as he grew old, a great longing to preserve for him¬ 
self and the world the essentials, at least, of the faith so deeply 
inculcated in him by his mother. 

But a young man growing up in the age of Frederick and 
Voltaire could not insulate himself from the sceptical current 
of the time. Kant was profoundly influenced even by the 
men whom later he aimed to refute, and ])erhaps most of all 
by his favorite enemy, Hume; we shall see later the remarkable 
phenomenon of a philosopher transcending the conservatism 
of his maturity and returning in almost his last work, and 
at almost the age of seventy, to a virile liberalism that would 
have brought him martyrdom liad not his age and his fame 
protected him. Even in the midst of his work of religious 
restoration we hear, with surprising frequency, the tones of 
another Kant whom we might almost mistake for a Voltaire. 
Schopenhauer thought it ^‘not the least merit of Frederick 



286 THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 

the Great, that under his government Kant could develop 
himself, and dared to publisli his Critique of Pure Reason. 
Hardly under any other government would a salaried pro¬ 
fessor” (therefore, in Germany, a government employee) 
‘^lave ventured such a thing. Kant was obliged to promise 
the immediate successor of the great King that he would write 
no more.” ^ It was in appreciation of this freedom that Kant 
dedicated the Critique to Zedlitz, Frederick’s far-sighted and 
progressive Minister of Education. 

In 1765 Kant began his work as private lecturer at the 
University of Konigsberg. For fifteen years he was left in 
this lowly post; twice his applications for a professorship were 
refused. At last, in 1770, he was made professor of logic and 
metaphysics. After many years of experience as a teacher, 
he wrote a text-book of pedagogy, of which he used to say 
that it contained many excellent precepts, none of which he 
had ever applied. Yet he was perhaps a better teacher than 
writer; and two generations of students learned to love him. 
One of his practical principles was to attend most to those 
pupils who were of middle ability; the dunces, he said, were 
beyond all help, and the geniuses would help themselves. 

Nobody expected him to startle the world with a new meta¬ 
physical system; to startle anybody seemed the very last crime 
that this timid and modest professor would commit. He him¬ 
self had no expectations in that line; at the age of forty-two 
he wrote: “I have the fortune to be a lover of metaphysics; 
but my mistress has shown me few favors as yet.” He spoke 
in those days of the “bottomless abyss of metaphysics,” and 
of metaphysics as “a dark ocean without shores or lighthouse,” 
strewn with many a philosophic wreck.^ He could even at¬ 
tack the metaphysicians as those who dwelt on the high 
towers of speculation, “where there is usually a great deal of 
wind.”^ He did not foresee that the greatest of all meta¬ 
physical tempests was to be of his own blowing. 

1 The World a$ Will and Idea, London, 1883; vol. ii, p. 133. 

2 In Paulsen, Immanuel Kant; New York, 1910; p. 82. 

sibid.. p. 56. 



KANT AND GERMAN IDEALISM 287 

During these quiet years his interests were rather physical 
than metaphysical. He wrote on planets, earthquakes, fire, 
winds, ether, volcanoes, geography, ethnology, and a hundred 
other things of that sort, not usually confounded with 
metaphysics. His Theory of the Heavens (1755) proposed 
something very similar to the nebular hy])othesis of Laplace, 
and attempted a mechanical explanation of all sidereal motion 
and development. All the planets, Kant thought, have been 
or will be inhabited; and those that are iarihcst from the 
sun, having had the longest period of growth, have probably 
a higher species of intelligent organisms than any yet pro¬ 
duced on our planet. His Anthropology (put together in 
1798 from the lectures of a life-time) suggested the possibility 
of the animal origin of man. Kant argued that if the human 
infant, in early ages when man was still largely at the mercy 
of wild animals, had cried as loudly upon entering the world 
as it does now, it would liave been found out and devoured by 
beasts of prey; that in all probability, therefore, man was very 
different at first from what he had become under civilization. 
And then Kant went on, subtly: ‘‘How nature brought about 
such a development, and by what causes it was aided, we know 
not. This remark carries us a long way. It suggests the 
thought whether the present period of history, on the occa¬ 
sion of some great physical revolution, may not be followed 
by a third, when an orang-outang or a chimpanzee would 
develop the organs which serve for walking, touching, speak¬ 
ing, into the articulated structure of a human being, with a 
central organ for the use of understanding, and gradually 
advance under the training of social institutions.” Was this 
use of the future tense Kant’s cautiously indirect way of 
putting forth his view of how man had really developed from 
the beast? ^ 

So we see the slow growth of this simple little man, hardly 
five feet tall, modest, shrinking, and yet containing in his 
head, or generating there, the most far-reaching revolution 

^•So Wallace suggests: Kant, Philadelphia, 1882: p. 115. 



288 


THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 


in modern philosophy. Kant’s life, says one biographer, 
passed like the most regular of regular verbs. ‘"Rising, 
coffee-drinking, writing, lecturing, dining, walking,” says 
Heine,—‘‘each had its set time. And when Immanuel Kant, 
in his gray coat, cane in hand, appeared at the door of his 
house, and strolled towards the small avenue of linden trees 
which is still called ‘The Philosopher’s Walk,’ the neighbors 
knew it was exactly half-past-three by the clock. So he 
promenaded up and down, during all seasons; and when the 
weather was gloomy, or the gray clouds threatened rain, 
his old servant Lampe was seen plodding anxiously after, 
with a large umbrella under his arm, like a S 5 unbol of Pru¬ 
dence.” 

He was so frail in physique that he had to take severe 
measures to regimen himself; he thought it safer to do this 
without a doctor; so he lived to the age of eighty. At seventy 
he wrote an essay “On the Power of the Mind to Master the 
Feeling of Illness by Force of Resolution.” One of his 
favorite principles was to breathe only through the nose, 
especially when out-doors; hence, in autumn, winter and 
spring, he would permit no one to talk to him on his daily 
walks; better silence than a cold. He applied philosophy 
even to holding up his stockings—by bands passing up into 
his trousers’ pockets, where they ended in springs contained 
in small boxes.^ He thought everything out carefully before 
acting; and therefore remained a bachelor all his life long. 
Twice he thought of offering his hand to a lady; but he re¬ 
flected so long that in one case the lady married a bolder man, 
and in the other the lady removed from Konigsberg before the 
philosopher could make up his mind. Perhaps he felt, like 
Nietzsche, that marriage w^ould hamper him in the honest pur¬ 
suit of truth; “a married man,” Talleyrand used to say, 
“will do anything for money.” And Kant had written, at 
twenty-two, with all the fine enthusiasm of omnipotent youth: 
“I have already fixed upon the line which I am resolved to 

1 Introd, to Kant’s Critique of Practical Reason; London, 1909; p. xiii. 



KANT AND GERMAN IDEALISM 289 

keep, I will enter on my course, and nothing shall prevent 
me from pursuing it.” ^ 

And so he persevered, through poverty and obscurity, 
sketching and writing and rewriting his magnum opm for 
almost fifteen years; finishing it only in 1781, when he was 
fifty-seven years old. Never did a man mature so slowly; and 
then again, never did a book so startle and upset the phil¬ 
osophic world. 


III. THE CRITIQUE OF PURE REASON ^ 

What is meant by this title.? Critique is not precisely a 
criticism, but a critical analysis; Kant is not attacking ‘^pure 
reason,” excejit, at the end, to show its limitations; rather he 
hopes to show its possibility, und to exalt it above the impure 
knowledge which comes to us through tlie distorting channels 
of sense. For ‘‘pure” reason is to mean knowledge that does 
not come through our senses, but is independent of all sense 
experience; knowledge belonging to us by the inherent nature 
and structure of the mind. 

At the very outset, then, Kant flings down a challenge to 
Locke and the English school: knowledge is not all derived 
from the senses. Hume thought he had shown that there is 
no soul, and no science; that our minds are but our ideas in 
procession and association; and our certainties but probabil¬ 
ities in perpetual danger of violation. These false conclu¬ 
sions, says Kant, are the result of false premises: you assume 
that all knowledge comes from “separate and distinct” 
sensations; naturally these cannot give you necessity, or in- 

1 Wallace, p. 100. 

2 A word about what to read. Kant himself is hardly intelligible to the be¬ 
ginner, because his thought is insulated with a bizarre and intricate terminol- 
ogy (hence the paucity of direct quotation in tliis chapter). Perhaps the sim¬ 
plest introduction is Wallace’s Kant, in the Blackwood Philosophical Classics. 
Heavier and more advanced is Paulsen's Immanuel Kant. Chamberlain's Im¬ 
manuel Kant (2 vols.; New York, 1914) is interesting but erratic and digres¬ 
sive. A good criticism of Kant may be found in Schopenhauer’s World as 
Will and Idea; vol. ii, pp. 1-159. But caveat emptor. 



S90 


THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 


variable sequences of which you may be forever certain; and 
naturally you must not expect to “see” your soul, even with 
the eyes of the internal sense. Let us grant that absolute 
certainty of knowledge is impossible if all knowledge comes 
from sensation, from an independent external world which 
owes us no promise of regularity of behavior. But what if 
we have knowledge that is independent of sense-experience, 
knowledge whose truth is certain to us even before experience 
—a priori? Then absolute truth, and absolute science, would 
become possible, would it not.? Is there such absolute knowl¬ 
edge.? This is the problem of the first Critique. “My ques¬ 
tion is, what we can hope to achieve with reason, when all 
the material and assistance of experience are taken away.” ^ 
The Critique becomes a detailed biology of thought, an ex¬ 
amination of the origin and evolution of concepts, an analysis 
of the inherited structure of the mind. This, as Kant be¬ 
lieves, is the entire problem of metaphysics. “In this book 
I have chiefly aimed at completeness; and I venture to main¬ 
tain that there ought not to be one single metaphysical prob¬ 
lem that has not been solved here, or to the solution of which 
the key at least has not here been supplied.” ^ Exegi rnonu- 
mentum aere peretmius! With such egotism nature spurs us 
on to creation. 

The Critique comes to the point at once. “Experience is 
by no means the only field to which our understanding can be 
confined. Experience tells us what is, but not that it must 
be necessarily what it is and not otherwise. It therefore never 
gives us any really general truths; and our reason, which is 
particularly anxious for that class of knowledge, is roused by 
it rather than satisfied. General truths, which at the same 
time bear the character of an inward necessity, must be inde¬ 
pendent of experience,—clear and certain in themselves.” ^ 
That is to say, they must be true no matter what our later ex- 

1 Critique of Pure Beaton, prcf. p. xxlv» 

i Ibid,, p. xxiii. 

8 Ibid., p. 1. 



KANT AND GERMAN IDEALISM 291 

perience may be; true even before experience; true a priori. 
‘^How far we can advance independently of all experience, in 
a priori knowledge, is shown by the brilliant example of math¬ 
ematics.” ^ Mathematical knowledge is necessary and cer¬ 
tain; we cannot conceive of future experience violating it. 
We may believe that the sun will “rise” in the west to-morrow, 
or that some day, in some conceivable asbestos world, fire will 
not burn stick; but we cannot for the life of us believe that 
two times two will ever make anything else than four. Such 
truths are true before experience; they do not depend on ex¬ 
perience past, present, or to come. Therefore they are ab¬ 
solute and necessary truths; it is inconceivable that they 
should ever become untrue. But whence do we get this char¬ 
acter of absoluteness and necessity? Not from experience; 
for experience gives us nothing but separate sensations and 
events, which may alter their sequence in the future.- These 
truths derive their necessary character from the inherent 
structure of our minds, from the natural and inevitable man¬ 
ner in which our minds must operate. For the mind of man 
(and here at last is the great thesis of Kant) is not passive 
wax upon which experience and sensation write their absolute 
and yet whimsical will; nor is it a mere abstract name for the 
series or group of mental states; it is an active organ which 
moulds and coordinates sensations into ideas, an organ which 
transforms the chaotic multiplicity of experience into the or¬ 
dered unity of thought. 

But how? 


1. Transcendental Esthetic 

The effort to answ^er this question, to study the inherent 
structure of the mind, or the innate laws of thought, is what 
Kant calls ‘Transcendental philosophy,” because it is a prob- 

-?P. 4. 

2 “Radical empiricism” (James, Dewey, etc.) enters the controversy at this 
point, and argues, against both Hume and Kant, that experience gives us re¬ 
lations and sequences as well as sensations and events. 



292 THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 

lem transcending sense-experience. “I call knowledge tran¬ 
scendental which is occupied not so much with objects, as with 
our a priori concepts of objects.” ^—with our modes of cor¬ 
relating our experience into knowledge. There are two 
grades or stages in this process of woi’king up the raw material 
of sensation into the finished product of thought. The first 
stage is the coordination of sensations by applying to them 
the forms of perception—space and time; the second stage is 
the coordination of the perceptions so developed, by applying 
to them the forms of conception—the “categories” of thought. 
Kant, using the word esthetic in its original and etymological 
sense, as connoting sensation or feeling, calls the study of 
the first of these stages “Transcendental Esthetic”; and using 
the word logic as meaning the science of tlie forms of thought, 
he calls the study of the second stage “Transcendental Logic.” 
These are terrible words, which will take meaning as tlie argu¬ 
ment proceeds; once over this hill, the road to Kant will be 
comparatively clear. 

Now just what is meant by sensations and perceptions.'*— 
and how does the mind change the former into the latter.^ By 
itself a sensation is merely the awareness of a stimulus; we have 
a taste on the tongue, an odor in the nostrils, a sound in the 
ears, a temperature on the skin, a flash of light on the retina, 
a pressure on the fingers: it is the raw crude beginning of ex¬ 
perience; it is what the infant has in the early days of its 
groping mental life; it is not yet knowledge. But let these 
various sensations group themselves about an object in space 
and time—say this apple; let the odor in the nostrils, and the 
taste on the tongue, the light on the retina, the shape-revealing 
pressure on the fingers and the hand, unite and group them¬ 
selves about this “thing”: and there is now an awareness not 
so much of a stimulus as of a specific object; there is a per¬ 
ception. Sensation has passed into knowledge. 

But again, was this passage, this grouping, autom^c? 

’ Critique of Pure Beaton, p. 10. 




KANT AND GERMAN IDEALISM 293 

Did the sensations of themselves, spontaneously and naturally, 
fall into a cluster and an order, and so become perception? 
Yes, said Locke and Hume; not at all, says Kant. 

For these varied sensations come to us through varied chan¬ 
nels of sense, through a thousand “afferent nerves” that pass 
from skin and eye and ear and tongue into the brain; what a 
medley of messengers they must be as they crowd into the 
chambers of the mind, calling for attention! No wonder 
Plato spoke of “the rabble of the senses.” And left to them¬ 
selves, they remain rabble, a chaotic “manifold,” pitifulh" im¬ 
potent, waiting to be ordered into meaning and purpose and 
power. As readily might the messages brought to a general 
from a thousand sectors of the battle-line weave themselves 
unaided into comprehension and command. No; there is a 
law-giver for this mob, a directing and coiirdinating power 
that does not merely receive, but takes these atoms of sensa¬ 
tion and moulds them into sense. 

Observe, first, that not all of the messages are accepted. 
Myriad forces play upon your body at this moment; a storm 
of stimuli beats down upon the nerve-endings which, amoeba¬ 
like, you put forth to experience the external woidd: but not 
all that call are chosen; only those sensations are selected that 
can be moulded into perceptions suited to your present ])ur- 
pose, or that bring those imperious messages of danger wliich 
are always relevant. The clock is ticking, and you do not hear 
it; but that same ticking, not louder than before, will be heard 
at once if your purpose wills it so. The mother asleep at 
her infant’s cradle is deaf to the turmoil of life about her; 
but let the little one move, and the mother gropes her way back 
to waking attention like a diver rising hurriedly to the sur¬ 
face of the sea. Let the purpose be addition, and the stimulus 
“two and three” brings the response, “five”; let the purpose 
be multiplication, and the same stimulus, the same auditory 
sensations, “two and three,” bring the response, “six.” As¬ 
sociation of sensations or ideas is not merely by contiguity in 



294 THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 

space or time, nor by similarity, nor by recency, frequency or 
intensity of experience; it is above all determined by the pur¬ 
pose of the mind. Sensations and thoughts are servants, they 
await our call, they do not come unless we need them. There 
is an agent of selection and direction that uses them and is 
their master. In addition to the sensations and the ideas there 
is the mind. 

This agent of selection and coordination, Kant thinks, uses 
first of all two simple methods for the classification of the 
material presented to it: the sense of space, and the sense of 
time. As the general arranges the messages brought him ac¬ 
cording to the place for which they come, and the time at 
which they were written, and so finds an order and a system 
for them all; so the mind allocates its sensations in space and 
time, attributes them to this object here or that object there, 
to this present time or to that past. Space and time are not 
things perceived, but modes of perception, ways of putting 
sense into sensation; space and time are organs of perception. 

They are o priori, because all ordered experience involves 
and presupposes them. Without them, sensations could never 
grow into pereeptions. They are d priori because it is incon¬ 
ceivable that we should ever have any future experience that 
will not also involve them. And because they are h priori, 
their laws, which are the laws of mathematics, are d priori, ab¬ 
solute and necessary, world without end. It is not merely 
probable, it is certain that we shall never find a straight line 
that is not the shortest distance between two points. Mathe¬ 
matics, at least, is saved from the dissolvent scepticism of 
David Hume. 

Can all the sciences be similarly saved.? Yes, if their basic 
principle, the law of causality—^that a given cause must cd- 
'ways be followed by a given effect—can be shown, like space 
and time, to be so inherent in all the processes of understand¬ 
ing that no future experience can be conceived that would 
violate or escape it. Is causalitytoo, a priori, an indispens¬ 
able prerequisite and condition of all thought? 



KANT AND GERMAN IDEALISM 


295 


2. Transcendental Analytic 

So we pass from the wide field of sensation and perception 
to the dark and narrow chamber of thought; from ‘tran¬ 
scendental estlietic” to “transcendental logic.” And first to 
the naming and analysis of those elements in our thought 
which are not so much given to the mind by perception as 
given to perception by the mind; those levers which raise the 
“perceptual’^ knowledge of objects into the “conceptual” 
knowledge of relationships, sequences, and laws; those tools 
of the mind which refine experience into science. Just as 
perceptions arranged sensations around objects in space and 
time, so conception arranges perceptions (objects and events) 
about the ideas of cause, unityreciprocal relation, necessity, 
contingency, etc.; these and other “categories” are the struc¬ 
ture into which perceptions are received, and by which they 
are classified and moulded into the ordered concepts of 
thought. These are the very essence and character of the 
mind; mind is the coordination of experience. 

And here again observe the activity of this mind that was, 
to Locke and Hume, mere “passive wax” under the blows of 
sense-experience. Consider a system of thought like Aris¬ 
totle’s; is it conceivable that this almost cosmic ordering of 
data should have come by the automatic, anarchistic sponta¬ 
neity of the data themselves? See this magnificent card- 
catalogue in the library, intelligently ordered into sequence 
by human purpose. Then picture all these card-cases thro^m 
upon the floor, all these cards scattered pell-mell into riotous 
disorder. Can you now conceive these scattered cards pull¬ 
ing themselves up, Munchausen-like, from their disarray, pass¬ 
ing quietly into their alphabetical and topical places in their 
proper boxes, and each box into its fit place in the rack,—until 
all should be order and sense and purpose again? What e 
miracle-story these sceptics have given us after all! 

Sensation is unorganized stimulus, perception is organized 
sensation, conception is organized perception, science is or- 



296 


THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 


ganized knowledge, wisdom is organized life: each is a greater 
degree of order, and sequence, and unity. Whence this 
order, this sequence, this unity? Not from the things them¬ 
selves; for they are known to us only by sensations that 
come through a thousand channels at once in disorderly 
multitude; it is our purpose that put order and sequence and 
unity upon this importunate lawlessness; it is ourselves, our 
personalities, our minds, that bring light upon these seas. 
Locke was wrong when he said, ‘‘There is nothing in the in¬ 
tellect except what was first in the senses”; Leibnitz was right 
when he added,—“nothing, except the intellect itself.” “Per¬ 
ceptions without conceptions,” says Kant, “are blind.” If 
perceptions wove tliemselves automatically into ordered 
thought, if mind were not an active effort hammering out or¬ 
der from chaos, how could the same experience leave one man 
mediocre, and in a more active and tireless soul be raised to 
the light of wisdom and the beautiful logic of truth? 

The world, then, has order, not of itself, but because the 
thought that knows the world is itself an ordering, the first 
stage in that classification of experience whicli at last is sci¬ 
ence and philosophy. The laws of thought arc also the laws 
of things, for things are known to us only through this 
thought that must obey these laws, since it and they are one; 
in effect, as Hegel was to say, the laws of logic and the laws 
of nature are one, and logic and metaphysics merge. The 
generalized principles of science are necessary because they are 
ultimately laws of thought that arc involved and presupposed 
in every experience, past, present, and to come. Science is 
absolute, and truth is everlasting. 

3. Transcendental Dialectic 

Nevertheless, this certainty, this absoluteness, of the high¬ 
est generalizations of logic and science, is, paradoxically, 
limited and relative: limited strictly to the field of actual ex¬ 
perience, and relative strictly to our human mode of experi- 



KANT AND GERMAN IDEALISM 297 

ence. For if our analysis lias been correct, the world as we 
know it is a construction, a finished product, almost—one 
might say—a manufactured article, to which the mind con¬ 
tributes as much by its moulding forms as the thing contrib¬ 
utes by its stimuli. (So we perceive tlie top of the table as 
round, whereas our sensation is of an ellipse.) The object as 
it appears to us is a phenomenon, an apj)earance, perhaps very 
different from the external object before it came within the 
ken of our senses; what that original object was we can never 
know; the ‘‘thing-in-itself” may be an object of thought or 
inference (a ^‘noumcnon”), but it cannot be experienced,—for 
in being experienced it would be changed by its passage 
through sense and tliought. ^Tt remains completely unknowm 
to us what objects may be by themselves and apart from the 
receptivity of our senses. We know nothing but our manner 
of perceiving them; that manner being peculiar to us, and 
not necessarily shared by every being, though, no doubt, hy 
every human being.” ^ The moon as known to us is merely 
a bundle of sensations (as Hume saw), unified (as Hume did 
not see) by our native mental structure through the elabora¬ 
tion of sensations into perceptions, and of these into concep¬ 
tions or ideas; in result, the moon is for ns merely our ideas.“ 
Not that Kant ever doubts the existence of ^bnalter” and 
the external world; but he adds that we know^ nothing certain 
about them except that they exist. Our detailed knowledge 
is about their appearance, their phenomena, about the sen¬ 
sations which we have of them. Idealism docs not mean, as 
the man in the street thinks, that nothing exists outside the 
perceiving subject; but that a goodly j)art of every object is 
created by the forms of perception and understanding: we 
know the object as transformed into idea; what it is before 
being so transformed we cannot know. Science, after all, is 
naive; it supposes that it is dealing with things in themselves, 

1 Critique, p. 37. If Kant had not added the last clause, his argument for 
the necessity of knowledge would have fallen. 

2 So John Stuart Mill, with all his English tendency to realism, was driven 
last to define matter as merely “a permanent possibility of sensatk'ns.” 



298 THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 

in their full-blooded external and uncorrupted reality; philoS' 
ophy is a little more sophisticated, and realizes that the whole 
material of science consists of sensations, perceptions and con¬ 
ceptions, rather than of things. ^‘Kant’s greatest merit,’’ 
says Schopenliauer, ‘‘is the distinction of the plienomenon from 
the thing-in-itself.” ^ 

It follows that any attempt, by either science or religion, 
to say just what the ultimate reality is, must fall back into 
mere hypothesis; “the understanding can never go bej^ond the 
limits of sensibility.” “ Such transcendental science loses it¬ 
self in “antinomies,” and such transcendental theology loses 
itself in “paralogisms.” It is the cruel function of “tran¬ 
scendental dialectic” to examine the validity of these attempts 
of reason to escape from the enclosing circle of sensation and 
appearance into the unknowable world of things “in them¬ 
selves.” 

Antinomies are the insoluble dilemmas born of a science that 
tries to overleap experience. So, for example, when knowl¬ 
edge attempts to decide whether the world is finite or infinite 
in space, thought rebels against either supposition: beyond 
any limit, we are driven to conceive something further, end¬ 
lessly ; and yet infinity is itself inconceivable. Again: did the 
world have a beginning in time.?^ We cannot conceive eter¬ 
nity; but then, too, we cannot conceive any point in the past 
without feeling at once that before that, something was. Or 
has that chain of causes which science studies, a beginning, a 
First CauseYes, for an endless chain is inconceivable; no, 
for a first cause uncaused is inconceivable as well. Is there 
any exit from these blind alleys of thought? There is, says 
Kant, if w^e remember that space, time and cause are modes 
of perception and conception, w'hich must enter into all our 
experience, since they are the web and structure of experience: 
these dilemmas arise from supposing that space, time and 
cause are external things independent of perception. We 

1 The World a$ Will and Idea; vol. ii, p. 7. 

^Critique, p. 215. 



KANT AND GERMAN IDEALISM 


299 


shall never have any experience which we shall not interpret 
in terms of space and time and cause; but we shall never have 
any philosophy if we forget that these are not things, but 
modes of interpretation and understanding. 

So witli the paralogisms of “rational” theology—which at¬ 
tempts to prove by theoretical reason that the soul is an in¬ 
corruptible substance, that the will is free and above the law 
of cause and effect, and that there exists a “necessary being,” 
God, as the presupposition of all reality. Transcendental 
dialectic must remind theology that substance and cause and 
necessity are finite categories, modes of arrangement and clas¬ 
sification which the mind applies to sense-experience, and re¬ 
liably valid only for the plienomena that appear to such ex¬ 
perience; we cannot apply these conceptions to the nouinenal 
(or merely inferred and conjectural) world. Religion cannot 
be proved by theoretical reason. 

So the first Critique ends. One could well imagine David 
Hume, uncannier Scot than Kant himself, viewing the results 
with a sardonic smile. Here was a tremendous book, eiglit 
hundred pages long; weighted beyond bearing, almost, with 
ponderous terminology; proposing to solve all the problems 
of metaphysics, and incidentally to save the absoluteness of 
science and the essential truth of religion. Wliat had the 
book really done.? It had destroyed the naive world of sci¬ 
ence, and limited it, if not in degree, certainly in scope,— 
and to a world confessedly of mere surface and ajipearance, 
beyond which it could issue only in farcical “antinomies”; so 
science was “saved”! The most eloquent and incisive portions 
of the book had argued that the objects of faith—a free and 
immortal soul, a benevolent creator—could never be proved 
by reason; so religion was “saved”! No wonder the priests of 
Germany protested madly against this salvation, and re¬ 
venged themselves by calling their dogs Immanuel Kant.^ 

And no wonder that Heine compared the little professor of 

1 Wallace, 82. 



soo 


THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 


Eonigsberg with the terrible Robespierre; the latter had 
merely killed a king, and a few thousand Frenchmen—^which 
a German might forgive; but Kant, said Heine, had killed 
God, had undermined the most precious arguments of theol¬ 
ogy. “What a sharp contrast between the outer life of this 
man, and his destructive, world-convulsing thoughts! Had 
the citizens of Konigsberg surmised the whole significance of 
those thoughts, they would have felt a more profound awe in 
the presence of this man than in that of an executioner, who 
merely slays human beings. But the good people saw in him 
nothing but a professor of philosophy; and when at the fixed 
hour he sauntered by, they nodded a friendly greeting, and 
set their watches.” ^ 

Was this caricature, or revelation? 

rv. THE CKITiaUE OF PRACTICAI, REASON 

If religion cannot be based on science and theology, on what 
then? On morals. The basis in theology is too insecure; 
better that it should be abandoned, even destroyed; faith must 
be put beyond the reach or realm of reason. But therefore 
the moral basis of religion must be absolute, not derived from 
questionable sense-experience or precarious inference; not cor¬ 
rupted by the admixture of fallible reason; it must be derived 
from the inner self by direct perception and intuition. We 
must find a universal and necessary ethic; ^ priori principles 
of morals as absolute and certain as mathematics. We must 
show that “pure reason can be practical; i. e., can of itself 
determine the will independently of anything empirical,” * 
that the moral sense is innate, and not derived from experience. 
The moral imperative which we need as the basis of religion 
must be an absolute, a categorical, imperative. 

Now the most astounding realit}' in all our experience ia 
precisely our moral sense, our inescapable feeling, in the face 

1 Heine, Proie MiscellanieB, Philadelphia, 1876; p. 146, 

2 Critique of Practical Reason, p. 31. 



KANT AND GERMAN IDEALISM 301 

of temptation, that this or that is wrong. We may yield; but 
the feeling is there nevertheless. Le matin je fats des projets^ 
et le soir jc fais des sottises; ^ but we know that they are sot- 
tiseSy and we resolve again. What is it that brings the bite 
of remorse, and the new resolution.^ It is tlic categorical im¬ 
perative in us, the unconditional command of our conscience, 
to “act as if the maxim of our action were to become by our 
will a universal law of nature.” ‘ We know, not by reason¬ 
ing, but by vivid and immediate feeling, that we must avoid 
behavior which, if adopted by all men, would render social 
life impossible. Do I wish to escape from a predicament by 
a lie.^ But “while I can will the lie, I can by no means will 
that lying should be a universal law. For with such a law 
there would be no promises at all.” ^ Hence the sense in me, 
that I must not lie, even if it be to my advantage. Prudence 
’s hypothetical; its motto is. Honesty when it is the best pol¬ 
icy ; but the moral law in our hearts is unconditional and ab¬ 
solute. 

And an action is good not because it has good results, or 
because it is wise, but because it is done in obedience to this 
inner sense of duty, this moral law that does not come from 
our personal experience, but legislates imperiously and a 
priori for all our behavior, past, present, and future. The 
only thing unqualifiedly good in this world is a good will— 
the will to follow the moral law, regardless of profit or loss 
for ourselves. Never mind your happiness; do your duty. 
“Morality is not properly the doctrine how^ w^e may make our¬ 
selves happy, but how we may make ourselves worthy of hap¬ 
piness.” ^ Let us seek the happiness in others; but for our¬ 
selves, perfection—whether it bring us happiness or pain.® 
To achieve perfection in yourself and happiness in others, 
“so act as to treat humanity, whether in thine own person 

1 “In the morning I make good resolutions; in the evening I commit follies." 

2 Practical Reason, p. 189. 

p. 19. 

4/6id., p. 227. 

4 Preface to The Metaphysical Elements of Ethics. 



302 THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 

or in that of another, in every case as an end, never only as 
a means”:'—this too, as we directly feel, is part of the cate¬ 
gorical imperative. Let us live up to such a principle, and 
we shall soon create an ideal community of rational beings; 
to create it we need only act as if we already belonged to 
it; we must apply the perfect law in the imperfect state. It 
is a hard ethic, you say,—this placing of duty above beauty, 
of morality above happiness; but only so can we cease to be 
beasts, and begin to be gods. 

Notice, meanwhile, that this absolute command to duty 
proves at last the freedom of our wills; how could we ever have 
conceived such a notion as duty if we had not felt ourselves 
free.^ We cannot prove this freedom by theoretical reason; 
we prove it by feeling it directly in the crisis of moral choice. 
We feel this freedom as the very essence of our inner selves, of 
the ‘‘pure Ego”; we feel within ourselves the spontaneous ac¬ 
tivity of a mind moulding experience and choosing goals. 
Our actions, once we initiate them, seem to follow fixed and in¬ 
variable laws, but only because we perceive their results 
through sense, which clothes all that it transmits in the dress 
of that causal law which our minds themselves have made. 
Nevertheless, we are beyond and above the laws we make in 
order to understand the world of our experience; each of us 
is a center of initiative force and creative power. In a way 
which we feel but cannot prove, each of us is free. 

And again, though we cannot prove, we feel, that we are 
deathless. We perceive that life is not like those dramas so 
beloved by the people—in which every villain is punished, and 
every act of virtue meets with its reward; we learn anew every 
day that the wisdom of the serpent fares better here than the 
gentleness of the dove, and that any thief can triumph if he 
steals enough. If mere worldly utility and expediency were 
the justification of virtue, it would not be wise to be too good. 
And yet, knowing all this, having it flung into our faces with 
brutal repetition, we still feel the command to righteousness., 
iMetaphysiet of Morali, London, 1909; p. 47. 



KANT AND GERMAN IDEALISM 


303 


we know that we ought to do the inexpedient good. How 
could this sense of right survive if it were not that in our 
hearts we feel this life to be only a part of life, this earthly 
dream only an embryonic prelude to a new birth, a new awak¬ 
ening; if we did not vaguely know that in that later and longer 
life the balance w^ill be redressed, and not one cup of w^ater 
given generously but shall be returned a hundred-fold? 

Einally, and by the same token, there is a God. If the 
sense of duty involves and justifies belief in rewards to come, 
‘Hhe postulate of immortality . . . must lead to the supposi¬ 
tion of the existence of a cause adequate to this effect; in 
other words, it must postulate the existence of God.” ^ This 
again is no proof by ‘‘reason”; the moral sense, which has to 
do with the wwld of our actions, must have prioritj’^ over that 
theoretical logic which was developed only to deal w ith sense- 
phenomena. Our reason leaves us free to believe that behind 
the thing-in-itself there is a just God; our moral sense com¬ 
mands us to believe it. Rousseau w as right: above the logic of 
the head is the feeling in the heart. Pascal was right: the 
heart has reasons of its ow n, w’^hich the head can never under¬ 
stand. 


V. ON RELIGION AND REASON 

Does this appear trite, and timid, and conservative? But 
it was not so; on the contrary, this bold denial of “rational” 
theology, this frank reduction of religion to moral faith and 
hope, aroused all the orthodox of Germany to protests. To 
face this “forty-parson-power” (as Byron would have called 
it) required more courage than one usually associates with 
the name of Kant. 

That he w^as brave enough appeared in all clarity w^hen he 
published, at sixty-six, his Critique of Judgment^ and, at 
sixty-nine, his Religion within the Limits of Pure Reason. In 
the earlier of these books Kant returns to the discussion of 
that argument from design which, in the first Critique^ he had 

^Practical Reason, p. 220. 



804 THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 

rejected as an insufficient proof of the existence of God. He 
begins by correlating design and beauty; the beautiful he 
thinks, is anything which reveals symmetry and unity of struc¬ 
ture, as if it had been designed by intelligence. He observes 
in passing (and Schopenhauer here helped himself to a good 
deal of his theory of art) that the contemplation of symmet¬ 
rical design always gives us a disinterested pleasure; and that 
“an interest in the beauty of nature for its own sake is always 
a sign of goodness.” ^ Many objects in nature show such 
beauty, such symmetry and unity, as almost to drive us to the 
notion of supernatural design. But on the other hand, says 
Kant, there are also in nature many instances of waste and 
chaos, of useless repetition and multiplication; nature pre¬ 
serves life, but at the cost of how much suffering and death 1 
The appearance of external design, then, is not a conclusive 
proov of Providence. The theologians who use the idea so 
much should abandon it, and the scientists who have aban¬ 
doned it should use it; it is a magnificent clue, and leads to 
hundreds of revelations. For there is design, undoubtedly; 
but it is internal design, the design of the parts by the whole; 
and if science will interpret the parts of an organism in terms 
of their meaning for the whole, it will have an admirable 
balance for that other heuristic principle—the mechanical con¬ 
ception of life—which also is fruitful for discovery, but which, 
alone, can never explain the growth of even a blade of grass. 

The essay on religion is a remarkable production for a man 
of sixty-nine; it is perhaps the boldest of all the books of Kant. 
Since religion must be based not on the logic of theoretical 
reason but on the practical reason of the moral sense, it fol¬ 
lows that any Bible or revelation must be judged by its value 
for morality, and cannot itself be the judge of a moral code. 
Churches and dogmas have value only in so far as they as¬ 
sist the moral development of the race. When mere creeds 
or ceremonies usurp priority over moral excellence as a test 
of religion, religion has disappeared. The real church is a 

1 Critique of Judgment, sect. 29. 



KANT AND GERMAN IDEALISM 


305 


community of people, liowever scattered and divided, who are 
united by devotion to the common moral law. It was to estab¬ 
lish such a community that Christ lived and died; it was this 
real church which he held up in contrast to the ecclesiasticism 
of the Pharisees. But another ecclesiasticism has almost over¬ 
whelmed this noble conception. ^‘Chrii>t has brought the 
kingdom of God nearer to earth; but he has been misunder¬ 
stood; and in place of God’s kingdom the kingdom of the 
priest has been established among us.” ^ Creed and ritual 
have again replaced the good life; an(i instead of men being 
bound together by religion, they arc divided into a thousand 
sects; and all manner of ‘‘pious nonsense” is inculcated as “a 
sort of heavenly court service by means of whicli one may 
win through flattery the favor of the ruler of heaven.” -— 
Again, miracles cannot prove a religion, for we can never 
quite rely on the testimony which supports them; and prayer 
is useless if it aims at a suspension of the natural laws that 
hold for all experience. Finally, the nadir of perversion is 
reached when the church becomes an instrument in the hands 
of a reactionary government; when the clergy, whose function 
it is to console and guide a harassed humanity with religious 
faith and hope and cliarity, are made the tools of tlieological 
obscurantism and political oppression. 

The audacity of these conclusions lay in the fact that pre¬ 
cisely this had happened in Prussia. Frederick the Great had 
died in 1786, and had been succeeded by Frederick William 
II, to whom the liberal policies of his predecessor seemed to 
smack unpatriotically of the French Enlightenment. Zedlitz, 
who had been Minister of Education under Frederick, was dis¬ 
missed; and his place was given to a Pietist, Wbllner. Woll- 
ner had been described by Frederick as “a treacherous and 
intriguing priest,” who divided his time between alchemy and 
Rosicrucian mysteries, and climbed to power by offering him¬ 
self as “an unworthy instrument” to the new monarch’s policy 

^Quoted in Chamberlain, Immanuel Kant; vol. i, p. 510. 

2 In Paulsen, 3G6. 



806 THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 

of restoring the orthodox . faith by compulsion.^ In 1788 
Wollner issued a decree which forbade any teaching, in school 
or university, that deviated from the orthodox form of Lu¬ 
theran Protestantism; he established a strict censorship over all 
forms of publication, and ordered the discharge of every teacher 
suspected of any heresy. Kant was at first left unmolested, 
because he was an old man, and—as one royal adviser said—• 
only a few people read him, and these did not understand him. 
But the essay on religion was intelligible; and though it 
rang true with religious fervor, it revealed too strong a strain 
of Voltaire to pass the new censorship. The Berliner Monats^ 
schrift, which had planned to publish the essay, was ordered 
to suppress li.. 

Kant acted now with a vigor and courage hardly credible 
in a man who had almost completed three score years and ten. 
He sent the essay to some friends at Jena, and through them 
had it published by the press of the university there. Jena 
was outside of Prussia, under the jurisdiction of that same 
liberal Duke of Weimar who was then caring for Goethe. 
The result was that in 1794! Kant received an eloquent cabinet 
order from the Prussian King, which read as follows: “Our 
highest person has been greatly displeased to observe how you 
misuse your philosophy to undermine and destroy many of 
the most important and fundamental doctrines of the Holy 
Scriptures and of Christianity. We demand of you immedi¬ 
ately an exact account, and expect that in future you will 
give no such cause of offense, but rather that, in accordance 
with your duty, you will employ your talents and authority so 
that our paternal purpose may be more and more attained. 
If you continue to oppose this order you may expect unpleas¬ 
ant consequences.” ^ Kant replied that every scholar should 
have the right to form independent judgments on religious 
matters, and to make his opinions known; but that during the 
reign of the present king he would preserve silence. Some 

y-Encyclopedia Britannica, article “Frederick Wllllain II.” 

a In Paulsen, p. 49. 



KANT AND GERMAN IDEALISM 307 

biographers who can be very brave by proxy, have condemned 
him for this concession; but let us remember that Kant was 
seventy, that he was frail in health, and not fit for a fight; 
and that he had already spoken his message to the world- 


VI. ON POLITICS AND ETERNAL PEACE 

The Prussian government might have pardoned Kant’s the¬ 
ology, had he not been guilty of political heresies as well. 
Three years after the accession of Frederick William II, the 
French Revolution had set all the tlirones of Europe trem¬ 
bling. At a time when most of the teachers in the Prussian 
universities had rushed to the support of legitimate mon¬ 
archy, Kant, sixty-five years young, hailed the Revolution 
with joy; and with tears in his eyes said to his friends: “Now 
I can say like Simeon, ‘Lord, let now Thy servant depart in 
peace; for mine eyes have seen Thy salvation.’ ” ^ 

He had published, in 1784, a brief exposition of his political 
theory under the title of “The Natural Principle of the Po¬ 
litical Order considered in connection with the Idea of a Uni¬ 
versal Cosmopolitical History.” Kai^ begins by recognizing, 
in that strife of each against all wliich had so shocked Hobbes, 
nature’s method of developing the hidden capacities of life; 
struggle is the indispensable accompaniment of progress. If 
men were entirely social^ man would stagnate; a certain alloy 
of individualism and competition is rcquii'ed to make the hu¬ 
man spiecles survive and grow;— “Without qualities of an un¬ 
social kind . . . men might have led an Arcadian shepherd 
life in complete harmony, contentment, and mutual love; but 
in that case .all, tligix, talents would have iorever remained hid¬ 
den in their germ.” (Kant, therefore, was no slavish follower 
of Rousseau.) “ Than ks be then to nature for this unsociable- 
ness, for this envious jealousy and vanity, for this insatiable 
desire for possession and for power. . . . hlan Avishes con¬ 
cord; but nature knows better what is good for his species. 


1 Wallace, p. 40. 



308 THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 

and she wills discord, in order that man may be impelled to 
a new exertion of his powers, and to the further development 
of his natural capacities.”^ 

The struggle for existence, then, is not altogether an evil. 
Nevertheless, men soon perceive that it must be restricted 
within certain limits, and regulated by rules, customs, and 
laws; hence the origin and development of civil society.^ But 
now “the same unsociableness which forced men into society 
becomes again the cause of each commonwealth’s assuming the 
attitude of uncontrolled freedom in its external relations,— 
i. e., as one state in relation to other states; and consequently, 
any one state must expect from any other the same sort of 
evils as formerly oppressed individuals and compelled them to 
enter into a civil union regulated by law.” ^ It is time that 
nations, like men, should emerge from the wild state of nature, 
and contract to keep the peace. The whole meaning and 
movement of history is the ever greater restriction of pug¬ 
nacity and violence, the continuous enlargement of the area 
jf peace. “The history of the human race, viewed as a whole, 
may be regarded as the realization of a hidden plan of nature 
to bring about a political constitution, internally and exter¬ 
nally perfect, as the only state in which all the capacities im¬ 
planted by her in mankind can be fully developed.” ^ If 
there is no such progress, the labors of successive civilizations 
are like those of Sisyphus, who again and again “up the high 
hill heaved a huge round stone,” only to have it roll back as 
it was almost at the top. History would be then nothing more 
than an endless and circuitous folly; “and we might suppose, 
like the Hindu, that the earth is a place for the expiation of 
old and forgotten sins.” ^ 

The essay on “Eternal Peace” (published in 1795, when 
Kant was seventy-one) is a noble development of this theme. 
Kant knows how easy it is to laugh at the phrase; and under 

i Eternal Peace and Other Eeeayej Boston, 1914; p. 14. 

»Jbid., p. 19. 

«P. SB. 



KANT AND GERMAN IDEALISM 


309 


his title he writes: “These words were once put by a Dutch 
inn-keeper on his sign-board as a satirical inscription, over the 
representation of a church-yard” cemetery.^ Kant had be¬ 
fore complained, as apparently every generation must, that 
“our rulers have no money to spend on public education . . . 
because all their resources are already placed to the account 
of the next war.” ^ The nations will not really be civilized 
until all standing armies are abolished. (The audacity of this 
proposal stands out when we remember that it was Prussia 
itself which, under the father of Frederick the Great, had been 
the first to establish conscription.) “Standing armies excite 
states to outrival one another in the number of their armed 
men, which has no limit. Through the expense occasioned 
thereby, peace becomes in the long run more oppressive than a 
short war; and standing armies are thus the cause of aggres¬ 
sive wars undertaken in order to get rid of this burden.” ® 
For in time of war the army would support itself on the coun¬ 
try, by requisitioning, quartering, and pillaging; preferably 
in the enemy’s territory, but if necessary, in one’s owm land; 
even this would be better than supporting it out of govern¬ 
ment funds. 

Much of this militarism, in Kant’s judgment, was due to 
the expansion of Europe into America and Africa and Asia; 
with the resultant quarrels of the thieves over their new booty. 
“If we compare the barbarian instances of inhospitality . . . 
with the inhuman behavior of the civilized, and especially the 
commercial, states of our continent, the injustice practiced by 
them even in their first contact with foreign lands and peo¬ 
ples fills us with horror; the mere visiting of such peoples be¬ 
ing regarded by them as equivalent to a conquest. America, 
the negro lands, the Spice Islands, the Cape of Good Hope, 
etc., on being discovered, were treated as countries that be¬ 
longed to nobody; for the aboriginal inhabitants were reck- 

1 P. 69. 

* P. 21. 

»P. 71. 



310 THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 

oned as nothing. . . . And all this has been done by nations 
who make a great ado about their piety, and who, while drink¬ 
ing up iniquity like water, would have themselves regarded as 
the very elect of the orthodox faith.” ^—The old fox of 
Konigsberg was not silenced yet! 

Kant attributed this imperialistic greed to the oligarchical 
constitution of European states; the spoils went to a select 
few, and remained substantial even after division. If de¬ 
mocracy were established, and all shared in political power, 
the spoils of international robbery w^ould have to be so sub¬ 
divided as to constitute a resistible temptation. Hence the 
‘‘first definitive article in the conditions of Eternal Peace” is 
this: “The civil constitution of every state shall be repub¬ 
lican, and war shall not be declared except by a plebiscite of 
all the citizens.” - When those who must do the fighting have 
the right to decide between war and peace, history will no 
longer be written in blood. “On the other hand, in a consti¬ 
tution where the subject is not a voting member of the state, 
and which is therefore not republican, the resolution to go to 
war is a matter of the smallest concern in the world. For 
in this case the ruler, who, as such, is not a mere citizen, but 
the o\^Tier of the state, need not in the least suffer personally 
by war, nor has he to sacrifice his pleasures of the table or 
the chase, or his pleasant palaces, court festivals, or the like. 
He can, therefore, resolve for war from insignificant reasons, 
as if it were but a hunting expedition; and as regards its pro¬ 
priety, he may leave the justification of it without concern to 
the diplomatic corps, who are always too ready to give their 
services for that purpose.” ^ How contemporary truth is! 

The apparent victory of the Revolution over the armies of 
reaction in 1795 led Kant to hope that republics would now 
spring up throughout Europe, and that an international or¬ 
der would arise based upon a democracy without slavery and 


IP. 68. 

2 Pp. 76-77. 
6 Ibid. 



KANT AND GERMAN IDEALISM 


311 


without exploitation, and pledged to peace. After all, the 
function of government is to help and develop the individual, 
not to use and abuse him. ‘‘Every man is to be respected as 
an absolute end in himself; and it is a crime against the dig¬ 
nity that belongs to him as a liuman being, to use him as a 
mere means for some external purpose.” ^ This too is part 
and parcel of that categorical imperative without which religion 
is a hypocritical farce. Kant therefore calls for equality: not 
of ability, but of opportunity for the development and ap¬ 
plication of ability; he rejects all prerogatives of birth and 
class, and traces all hereditary privilege to some violent con¬ 
quest in the past. In the midst of obscurantism and reaction 
and the union of all monarchical Europe to crush the Revolu¬ 
tion, he takes his stand, despite his seventy years, for the new 
order, for the establishment of democracy and liberty every¬ 
where. Never had old age so bravely spoken with the voice 
of youth. 

But he was exhausted now; lie had run his race and fought 
liis fight. He withered slowly into a childlike senility that 
came at last to be a harmless insanity: one by one his sensibil¬ 
ities and his powers left him; and in 1804, aged seventy-nine, 
he died, quietly and naturally, like a leaf falling from a tree. 


VII. CRITICISM AND ESTIMATE 

And now how does this complex structure of logic, meta¬ 
physics, psychology, ethics, and politics stand today, after 
the philosophic storms of a century have beaten down upon 
it? It is pleasant to answer that much of the great edifice 
remains; and that the “critical philosophy” represents an event 
of permanent importance in the liistory of thought. But 
many details and outworks of the structure have been shaken. 

First, then, is space a mere “form of sensibility,” having no 
objective reality independent of the perceiving mind.^ Yes 
and no. Yes: for space is an empty concept when not filled 

1 In Paulsen, p. 340. 



312 THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 

with perceived objects; “space” merely means that certain ob¬ 
jects are, for the perceiving mind, at such and such a position, 
or distance, with reference to other perceived objects; and no 
external perception is possible except of objects in space; 
space then is assuredly a “necessary form of the external 
sense.” And no: for without doubt, such spatial facts as the 
annual elliptical circuit of sun by earth, though statable only 
by a mind, are independent of any perception whatever; the 
deep and dark blue ocean rolled on before Byron told it to, and 
after he had ceased to be. Nor is space a “construct” of the 
mind through the coordination of spaceless sensations; we per¬ 
ceive space directly through our simultaneous perception of 
different objects and various points—as when we see an in¬ 
sect moving across a still background. Likewise: time as a 
sense of before and after, or a measurement of motion, is of 
course subjective, and highly relative; but a tree will age, 
wither and decay whether or not the lapse of time is measured 
or perceived. The truth is that Kant was too anxious to 
prove the subjectivity of space, as a refuge from materialism; 
he feared the argument that if space is objective and universal, 
God must exist in space, and be therefore spatial and material. 
He might have been content with the critical idealism which 
shows that all reality is known to us primarily as our sensa¬ 
tions and ideas. The old fox bit off more than he could chew.* 
He might well have contented himself, too, with the rela¬ 
tivity of scientific truth, without straining towards that mi¬ 
rage, the absolute. Recent studies like those of Pearson in 
England, Mach in Germany, and Henri Poincare in France, 
agree rather with Hume than with Kant: all science, even 

1 The persistent vitaDty of Kant’s theory of knowledge appears in its com^ 
plete acceptance by so matter-of-fact a scientist as the late Charles P. Stein^ 
metz: “All our sense-perceptions are limited by, and attached to, tho 
conceptions of time and space. Kant, the greatest and most critical of all 
philosophers, denies that time and space are the product of experience, but 
shows them to be categories—conceptions in which our minds clothe the sense 
perceptions. Modern physics has come to the same conclusion in the relativity 
theory, that absolute space and absolute time have no existence, but time an6 
space exist only as far as things or events All them; that is, they are form* 
of perception.”—Address at the Unitarian Church, Schenectady, 1923^ 



KANT AND GERMAN IDEALISM 318 

the most rigorous mathematics, is relative in its truth. Sci¬ 
ence itself is not worried about the matter; a high degree of 
probability contents it. Perhaps, after all, ‘‘necessary” 
knowledge is not necessary? 

The great achievement of Kant is to have shown, once for 
all, that the external world is known to us only as sensation; 
and that the mind is no mere helpless tabula rasa^ the inactive 
victim of sensation, but a positive agent, selecting and recon¬ 
structing experience as experience arrives. We can make 
subtractions from this accomplishment without injuring its 
essential greatness. We may smile, with Schopenhauer, at the 
exact baker’s dozen of categories, so prettily boxed into trip¬ 
lets, and then stretched and contracted and interpreted devi¬ 
ously and ruthlessly to fit and surround all things.^ And we 
may even question whether these categories, or interpretive 
forms of thought, are innate, existing before sensation and 
experience; perhaps so in the individual, as Spencer conceded, 
though acquired by the race; and then, again, probabl}^ ac¬ 
quired even by the individual: the categories may be grooves 
of thought, habits of perception and conception, gradually 
produced by sensations and perceptions automatically arrang¬ 
ing themselves,—first in disorderly ways, then, by a kind of 
natural selection of forms of arrangement, in orderly and 
adaptive and illuminating ways. It is memory that classifies 
and interprets sensations into perceptions, and perceptions 
into ideas; but memory is an accretion. That unit}^ of the 
mind which Kant thinks native (the “transcendental unity of 
apperception”) is acquired—and not by all; and can be lost 
as well as won—in amnesia, or alternating personality, or 
insanity. Concepts are an achievement, not a gift. 

The nineteenth century dealt rather hardly with Kant’s 
ethics, his theory of an innate, a priori^ absolute moral sense. 
The philosophy of evolution suggested irresistibly that the 
sense of duty is a social deposit in the individual, the content 
of conscience is acquired, though the vague disposition to so- 

^ Op, cit,, voL ii, p. 23. 



814 


THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 


cial behavior is innate. The moral self, the social man, ia 
no ‘Special creation” coming mysteriously from the hand of 
God, but the late product of a leisurely evolution. Morals are 
not absolute; they are a code of conduct more or less hap¬ 
hazardly developed for group survival, and varying with the 
nature and circumstances of the group: a people hemmed in 
by enemies, for example, will consider as immoral that zestful 
and restless individualism which a nation youthful and secure 
in its w^ealth and isolation will condone as a necessary ingre¬ 
dient in the exploitation of natural resources and the format 
tion of national character. No action is good in itself, as 
Kant supposes.^ 

His pietistic youth, and his hard life of endless duty 
and infrequent pleasure, gave him a moralistic bent; he 
came at last to advocate duty for duty’s sake, and so fell 
unwittingly into the arms of Prussian absolutism.^ There is 
something of a severe Scotch Calvinism in this opposition of 
duty to happiness; Kant continues Luther and the Stoic Ref¬ 
ormation, as Voltaire continues Montaigne and the Epicurean 
Renaissance. He represented a stern reaction against the 
egoism and hedonism in which Helvetius and Holbach had 
formulated the life of their reckless era, very much as Luther 
had reacted against the luxury and laxity of Mediterranean 
Italy. But after a century of reaction against the absolutism 
of Kant’s ethics, we find ourselves again in a welter of urban 
sensualism and immorality, of ruthless individualism untem¬ 
pered with democratic conscience or aristocratic honor; and 
perhaps the day will soon come w’hen a disintegrating civiliza¬ 
tion will welcome again the Kantian call to duty. 

The marvel in Kant’s philosophy is his vigorous revival, in 
the second Critique, of those religious ideas of God, freedom, 
and immortality, which the first Critique had apparently de¬ 
stroyed. “In Kant’s works,” says Nietzsche’s critical friendf 
Paul Ree, “you feel as though you were at a country fair. 

Practical Reason, p. 31. 

2Cf. Prof. Dewey: German Philosophy and Politics, 



KANT AND GERMAN IDEALISM 315 

You can buy from him anything you want—freedom of the 
will and captivity of the will, idealism and a refutation of 
idealism, atheism and the good Lord. Like a juggler out of 
an empty liat, Kant draws out of the concept of duty a God, 
immortality, and freedom,—to the great surprise of his read¬ 
ers.” ^ Schopenhauer too takes a fling at the derivation of 
immortality from the need of reward; '"Kant’s virtue, which at 
first bore itself so bravely towards happiness, loses its inde¬ 
pendence later, and holds out its hand for a tip.” - The great 
pessimist believes that Kant was really a sceptic who, having 
al^aiidoned belief himself, hesitated to destroy the faith of the 
peoj)le, for fear of the consecjuences to public morals. “Kant 
discloses the groundlessness of speculative theology, and leaves 
popular theology untouched, nay even establislics it in a nobler 
form as a faith based upon moral feeling.” This was after¬ 
yards distorted by the philosophasters into rational apprehen¬ 
sion and consciousness of (iod, etc. . . .; while Kant, as he 
demolished old and revered errors, and knew the danger of 
doing so, rather wished through the moral theology merely to 
substitute a few weak temporarv supports, so that the ruin 
night not fall upon him, but that he might have time to es¬ 
cape.” ^ So too Heine, in what is no doubt an intentional 
caricature, represents Kant, after having destroyed religion, 
going out for a walk with his servant Lampc, and sudd<idy 
perceiving that the old man’s eyes are filled with tears. 
“Then Immanuel Kant has compassion, and shows that he is 
not only a great philosopher, but also a good man; and half 
kindly, half ironically, he speaks: ‘Old Lampe must have a 
God or else he cannot be happy, says the practical reason; for 
my part, the practical reason may, then, guarantee the exist¬ 
ence of God.’ ” ^ If these interpretations were true we should 
have to call the second Critique a Transcendental Anesthetic. 

But these adventurous reconstructions of the inner Kant 

1 In Untermann, Science and Revolution, Chicago, 1905; p. 81. 

2 In Paulsen, p. 817. 

8 The World as Will and Idea, vol. ii, p. 129. 

< Quoted by Paulsen, p. 8. 



316 


THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 


need not be taken too seriously. The fervor of the essay on 
“Religion within the Limits of Pure Reason” indicates a sin¬ 
cerity too intense to be questioned, and the attempt to change 
the base of religion from theology to morals, from creeds to 
conduct, could have come only from a profoundly religious 
mind. “It is indeed true,” he wrote to Moses Mendelssohn 
in 1766, “that I think many things with the clearest con¬ 
viction, . . . which I never have the courage to say; but I 
will never say anything which I do not think.” ^ Naturally, 
a long and obscure treatise like the great Critique lends itself 
to rival interpretations; one of the first reviews of the book, 
written by Reinhold a few years after it appeared, said 
as much as M'e can say today: “The Critique of Pure 
Reason has been proclaimed by the dogmatists as the attempt 
of a sceptic who undermines the certainty of all knowledge; 
—by the sceptics as a piece of arrogant presumption that 
undertakes to erect a new form of dogmatism upon the 
ruins of previous systems;—by the supernaturalists as a 
subtly plotted artifice to displace the historical foundations 
of religion, and to establish naturalism without polemic;—by 
the naturalists as a new prop for the dying philosophy of 
faith;—by the materialists as an idealistic contradiction of 
the reality of matter;—by the spiritualists as an unjustifiable 
limitation of all reality to the corporeal world, concealed under 
the name of the domain of experience.” ^ In truth the 
glory of the book lay in its appreciation of all these points 
of view; and to an intelligence as kedn as Kant’s own, it might 
well appear that he had really reconciled them all, and fused 
them into such a unity of complex truth as philosophy had not 
seen in all its history before. 

As to his influence, the entire philosophic thought of the 
nineteenth century revolved about his speculations. After 
Kant, all Germany began to talk metaphysics: Schiller and 
Goethe studied him; Beethoven quoted with admiration his 

X In Paulsen, p. 53. 

zlhid,, p. 114. 



KANT AND GERMAN IDEALISM 317 

famous words about the two wonders of life—^Hlie starry 
heavens above, the moral law within^’; and Fichte, Schelling, 
Hegel and Schopenhauer produced in raj)id succession great 
systems of thought reared u])on the idealism of the old 
Konigsberg sage. It was in tlicse balmy days of German 
metaphysics that Jean Paul Richter wrote: ‘‘God has given 
to the French tlie land, to the Englisli the sea, to the Germans 
the empire of the air.” KanFs criticism of reason, and his 
exaltation of feeling, prepared for tlie voluntarism of Schopen¬ 
hauer and Nietzsche, the intuitionism of liergson, and the 
pragmatism of William James; his identification of the laws 
of thought with the laws of reality gave to Hegel a whole 
system of philosophy; and liis unknowable “thing-in-itself” 
influenced Spencer more than Spencer knew. Much of the 
obscurity of Carlyle is traceable to his attempt to allegorize 
the already obscure tliought of Goethe and Kant—that diverse 
religions and philosophies are but the changing garments of 
one eternal truth. Caird and Green and Wallace and Watson 
and Bradley and many others in England owe tlieir inspira¬ 
tion to the first Critique; and even the wildly innovating 
Nietzsche takes his epistemologj^ from the “great Chinaman 
of Konigsberg” whose static ethics lie so excitedly condemns. 
After a century of struggle between the idealism of Kant, 
variously reformed, and the materialism of the Enlightenment, 
variously redressed, the victory seems to lie with Kant. Even 
the great materialist Helvetius wrote, ])aradoxically: ‘^Men, 
if I may dare say it, are the creators of matter.” ^ Philoso¬ 
phy will never again be so naive as in her earlier and simpler 
days; she must always be different hereafter, and profounder, 
because Kant lived. 


VIII. A NOTE ON HEGEL 

Not very long ago it was the custom for historians of phi¬ 
losophy to give to the immediate successors of Kant—to 


1 In Chamberlain, vol. i, p. 86. 



818 THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 

Fichte, Sclielling, and Hegel—as much honor and space as 
to all his predecessors in modern thought from Bacon and 
Descartes to Voltaire and Hume. Our perspective today is a 
little different, and we enjoy perhaps too keenly the invective 
leveled by Schopenhauer at his successful rivals in the com¬ 
petition for professional posts. B 3 " reading Kant, said 
Schopenhauer, “the public was compelled to see that what is ob¬ 
scure is not alwaj’s without significance.’’ Fichte and Schell- 
ing took advantage of this, and excogitated magnificent 
spider-webs of metaplwsics. “But the height of audacity in 
serving up pure nonsense, in stringing together senseless and 
extravagant mazes of words, such as had previously been 
known only^ in madhouses, was finally reached in Hegel, and 
became the instrument of the most bare-faced general mystifi¬ 
cation that has ever taken place, with a result which will ap¬ 
pear fabulous to posterity", and will remain as a monument 
to German stupidity.” ^ Is this fair? 

Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel was born at Stuttgart in 
1770. His father was a subordinate official in the depart¬ 
ment of finances of the state of Wiirtemberg; and Hegel him¬ 
self grew' up with the patient and methodical habits of those 
civil servants whose modest efficienc}' has given Germany the 
best-governed cities in the world. The youth w^as a tireless 
student: he made full analyses of all the important books he 
read, and copied out long passages. True culture, he said, 
must begin with resolute self-effacement; as in the Pythag¬ 
orean system of education, where the pupil, for the first five 
years, was required to keep his peace. 

His studies of Greek literature gave him an enthusiasm for 
Attic culture w'hich remained w^ith him when almost all other 
enthusiasms had died awaj^. “At the name of Greece,” he 
wrote, “the cultivated German finds himself at home. Eu¬ 
ropeans have their religion from a further source, from the 
East; • . . but what is here, what is present,—science and 

1 Caird, Heffel, in the Blackwood Philosophical Classics; pp. 5-8. The bio¬ 
graphical account follows Caird throughout. 



HEGEL 


319 


art, all that makes life satisfying, and elevates and adorns it 
—we derive, directly or indirectly, from Greece.” For a time 
he preferred tlie religion of the Greeks to Christianity; and 
he anticipated Strauss and Renan by writing a Life of Jesus 
in which Jesus was taken as the son of Mary and Joseph, and 
the miraculous element was ignored. Later he destroyed the 
hook. 

In politics too he showed a spirit of rebellion hardly to be 
suspected from his later sanctifieation of the status quo. 
While studying for the ministry at Tubingen, he and 
Schelling hotly defended the hh’cncli ile\olution, and went 
out early one morning to plant a liberty Tree in the market¬ 
place. ^‘The French nation, b}’^ the bath of its revolution,” 
he wrote, “has been freed from many institutions which the 
spirit of man has left behind like its baby shoes, and which 
therefore weighed upon it, as tliey still weigh upon others, 
like lifeless feathers.” It was in those hopeful days, “when 
to be young was very heaven,” that he flirted, like Fichte, with 
a kind of aristocratic socialism, and gave himself, with charac¬ 
teristic vigor, to the Romantic current in which all Europe 
was engulfed. 

He was graduated from Tubingen in 1793 with a certificate 
stating that he was a man of good parts and character, well 
up in theology and philology, but with no al)ility in phii‘'>o- 
phy. He was poor now, and had to earn his bread by tutor¬ 
ing in Berne and Frankfort. These were his chrysalis years: 
while Europe tore itself into nationalist ])ieces, Hegel 
gathered himself together and grew. Then (1799) his father 
died, and Hegel, falling heir to some $1500, considered him¬ 
self a rich man, and gave up tutoring. He wrote to his friend 
Schelling for advice as to where to settle, and asked for a 
place where there would be simple food, abundant books, 
and “ein gutes Bier.” Schelling recommended Jena, which 
was a university town under the jurisdiction of the Duke of 
Weimar. At Jena Schiller was teaching history; Tieck, 
Novalis and the Schlegels were preaching romanticism; and 



320 


THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 


Fichte and Schelling were propounding their philosophies. 
There Hegel arrived in 1801, and in 1803 became a teacher at 
the tTniversit}". 

He was still there in 1806 when Napoleon’s victory over 
the Prussians threw the scholarly little city into confusion and 
terror. French soldiers invaded Hegel’s home, and he took 
to his heels like a philosopher, carr 3 ung with him the manu¬ 
script of his first important book. The Phenomenology of 
Spirit. For a while he was so destitute that Goethe told 
Knebel to lend him a few dollars to tide him over. Hegel 
wrote almost bitterly to Knebel: ‘T have made my guiding- 
star the Biblical saying, the truth of which I have learned by 
experience, Seek ye first food and clothing, and the kingdom 
of heaven shall be added unto j^ou.” For a while he edited a 
paper at Bamberg; then, in 1812, he became head of the 
gymnasium at Niirnburg. It was there, perhaps, that the 
stoic necessities of administrative work cooled the fires of 
romanticism in him, and made him, like Napoleon and Goethe, 
a classic vestige in a romantic age. And it was there that 
he wrote his Logic (1812-16), wdiich captivated Germany by 
its unintelligibility, and won him the chair of philosophy at 
Heidelberg. At Heidelberg he wrote his immense Encyclo¬ 
pedia of the Philosophical Sciences (1817), on the strength 
of which he w^as promoted, in 1818, to the University of Berlin. 
From that time to the end of his life he ruled the philosophic 
world as indisputably as Goethe the world of literature, and 
Beethoven the realm of music. His birthday came on the 
day after Goethe’s; and proud Germany made a double holiday 
for them every year. 

A Frenchman once asked Hegel to put his philosophy into 
one sentence; and he did not succeed so well as the monk who, 
asked to define Christianity while standing on one foot, said, 
simply, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” Hegel 
preferred to answer in ten volumes; and when they were 
written and published, and all the world was talking about 
them, he complained that “only one man understands me. 



HEGEI 


321 

and even lie does not.’’ ^ Most of Ins writings, like Aristotle’s, 
consist of his lecture-notes; or, worse, of the notes taken by 
students who heard his lectures. Only the Logic and the 
PhenomenoJogy are from his hand, and these are masterpieces 
of obscurity, darkened by abstractness and condensation of 
style, by a weirdly original terminology, and by an over¬ 
careful modification of every statement with a Gothic wealth 
of limiting clauses. Hegel described his work as attempt 
to teach philosoph}" to speak in Gerin/ui.” - lie succeeded. 

The Logic is an analysis not of methods of reasoning, but of 
the concepts used in reasoning. These Hegel takes to be the 
categories named by Kant—Being, Qualiiy, Quantity, Rela¬ 
tion, etc. It is the first business of philosophy to dissect those 
basic notions that arc so bandied about in all our thinking. 
The most pervasive of them all is Relation; every idea is a 
group of relations; we can think of something only by relat¬ 
ing it to something else, and perceiving its similarities and 
its differences. An idea without relations of any kind is 
empty; this is all that is meant by saying that “Pure Being 
and Nothing are the same”: Being absolutely devoid of rela¬ 
tions or qualities does not exist, and has no meaning whatever. 
This proposition led to an endless progeny of witticisms which 
still breed; and it proved to be at once an obstacle and a 
lure to the study of Hegel’s thought. 

Of all relations, the most universal is that of contrast or 
opposition. Every condition of thought or of things—every 
idea and every situation in the world—leads irresistibly to its 
oj)posite, and then unites with it to form a higher or more 
complex whole. This “dialectical movement” runs through 
everything that Hegel wrote. It is an old thought, of course, 
foreshadowed by Empedocles, and embodied in the “golden 
mean” of Aristotle, who, wrote that “the knowledge of op¬ 
posites is one.” The truth (like an electron) is an organic 

1 Rutliless critics, as we might have expected, challenge the authenticity of 
this story. 

Wallace: Prolegomena to the Logic of Hegel, p. 16. 



822 THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 

unity of opposed parts. The truth of conservatism and 
radicalism is liberalism—an open mind and a cautious hand, 
an open hand and a cautious mind; the formation of our 
opinions on large issues is a decreasing oscillation between 
extremes; and in all debatable questions veritas in medio stat. 
The movement of evolution is a continuous development of 
oppositions, and their merging and reconciliation. Schelling 
was right—there is an underlying “identity of opposites”; 
and Fichte was right—thesis, antithesis and synthesis con¬ 
stitute the formula and secret of all development and all 
reality. 

For not only do thoughts develop and evolve according to 
this “dialectical movement,” but things do equally; every con¬ 
dition of affairs contains a contradiction which evolution must 
resolve by a reconciling unity. So, no doubt, our present 
social system secretes a self-corroding contradiction: the 
stimulating individualism required in a period of economic 
adolescence and unexploitcd resources, arouses, in a later 
age, the aspiration for a cooperative commonwealth; and the 
future will see neither the present reality nor the visioned 
ideal, but a synthesis in which something of both will come 
together to beget a higher life. And tliat higher stage too 
will divide into a productive contradiction, and rise to still 
loftier levels of organization, complexity, and unity. The 
movement of thought, then, is the same as the movement of 
things; in each there is a dialectical progression from unity 
through diversity to diversity-in-unity. Thought and being 
follow the same law; and logic and metaphysics are one. 

Mind is the indispensable organ for the perception of this 
dialectical process, and this unity in difference. The function 
of the mind, and the task of philosophy, is to discover the 
unity that lies potential in diversity; the task of ethics is 
to unify character and conduct; and the task of politics is 
to unify individuals into a state. The task of religion is to 
reach and feel that Absolute in which all opposites are resolved 
into unity, that great sum of being in which matter and mind. 



HEGEL 


323 


subject and object, good and evil, arc one. God is tlic system 
of relationships in which all things move and have their being 
and their significance. In man the Absolute rises to self- 
consciousness, and becomes the Absolute Idea—tliat is, 
thought realizing itself as part of tlie Absolute, transcending 
individual limitations and puri)oses, and catching, underneath 
the universal strife, the hidden harmony of all things. 
‘‘Reason is the substance of the universe; . . . the design of 
the world is absolutely rational.” ^ 

Not that strife and evil are mere negative imaginings; they 
are real enough; but they are, in wisdom’s ])crsi)ectlvc, stages 
to fulfilment and the good. Struggle is the law of growth; 
character is built in the storm and stress of the world; and a 
man reaches his full height only through compulsions, respon¬ 
sibilities, and suffering. Even j)ain has its rationale; it is 
a sign of life and a stimulus to reconstruction. Passion also 
has a place in the reason of things: “nothing great in the world 
has been accomplished without passion”; ^ and even the 
egoistic ambitions of a Napoleon contribute unwittingly to 
the development of nations. lafe is not made for happi¬ 
ness, but for achievement. “The historv of the world is not 
the theatre of happiness; })eriods of happiness are blank 
pages in it, for they are periods of harmony”; ^ and tliis dull 
content is unworthy of a man. History is made only in tho>c 
periods in which the contradictions of reality are being 
resolved by growth, as the hesitations and awkwardness of 
youth pass into the ease and order of maturity. History is a 
dialectical movement, almost a scries of revolutions, in which 
people after people, and genius after genius, becomes the 
instrument of the Absolute. Great men are not so much 
begetters, as midwives, of the future; what they bring forth 
is mothered by the Zeitgeist^ the Spirit of the Age. The 
genius merely places another stone on the pile, as others have 

1 Hegel: Phi\osoihy of History, Bohn ed., j)p. 9, 13. 

2 Ibid., p. 2t. 

2 Ibid,, p. 2" . 



THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 


324) 

done; “somehow his has the good fortune to come last, and 
when he places his stone the arch stands self-supported.” 
“Such individuals had no consciousness of the general Idea 
they were unfolding; . . . but they had an insight into the 
requirements of the time—what was ripe for development. 
This was the very Truth for their age, for their world; the 
species next in order, so to speak, and which was already 
formed in the womb of time.” ^ 

Such a philosophy of history seems to lead to revolutionary 
conclusions. The dialectical process makes change the car¬ 
dinal principle of life; no condition is permanent; in every 
stage of things there is a contradiction which only the “strife 
of opposites” can resolve. The deepest law of politics, there¬ 
fore, is freedom—an open avenue to change; history is the 
growth of freedom, and the state is, or should be, freedom 
organized. On the other hand, the doctrine that “the real 
is rational” has a conservative color: every condition, though 
destined to disappear, has the divine right that belongs to 
it as a necessary stage in evolution; in a sense it is brutally 
true that “whatever is, is right.” And as unity is the goal of 
development, order is the first requisite of liberty. 

If Hegel inclined, in his later years, to the conservative 
rather than to the radical implications of his philosophy, it 
was partly because the Spirit of the Age (to use his own his¬ 
toric phrase) was weary of too much change. After the 
Revolution of 1830 he wrote: “Finally, after forty years of 
war and immeasurable confusion, an old heart might rejoice 
to see an end of it all, and the beginning of a period of peace¬ 
ful satisfaction.” “ It was not quite in order that the phi¬ 
losopher of strife as the dialectic of growth should become the 
advocate of content; but at sixty a man has a right to ask 
for peace. Nevertheless, the contradictions in Hegel’s 
thought were too deep for peace; and in the next generation 
his followers split with dialectical fatality into the “Hegelian 

i Ibid., p. 31. 

t In Caird, p. 93. 



HEGEL 


32S 


Right” and the ‘‘Hegelian Left.” Weisse and the younger 
Fichte found, in the theory of the real as rational, a phil¬ 
osophical expression of the doctrine of Providence, and 
justification for a politics of absolute obedience. Feuerbach, 
Moleschott, Bauer and Marx returned to tlie scepticism and 
“higher criticism” of HegePs youth, and developed the phi- 
losopliy of history into a theory of class struggles leading by 
Hegelian necessity to “socialism inevitable.” In place of 
the Absolute as determining history through the Zeitgeist^ 
Marx offered mass movements and economic forces as the 
basic causes of every fundamental change, whether in the 
world of things or in the life of thought. Hegel, the im¬ 
perial professor, had hatched the socialistic eggs. 

The old philosopher denounced the radicals as dreamers, 
and carefully hid away his early essaj^s. He allied himself 
with the Prussian Government, blessed it as the latest expres¬ 
sion of the Absolute, and basked in the sun of its academic 
favors. His enemies called him “the official philosopher.” 
He began to think of the Hegelian system as part of the 
natural laws of the world; he forgot that his own dialectic 
condemned his thought to impermanence and decay. “Never 
did philosophy assume such a lofty'tone, and never were its 
royal honors so fully recognized and secured, as in 1830” in 
Berlin.^ 

But Hegel aged rapidly in those happy years. He be^ 
came as absent-minded as a story-book genius; once he en¬ 
tered the lecture-room with only one shoe, having left the 
other, unnoticed, in the mud. When the cholera epidemic 
came to Berlin in 1831, his weakened body was one of the first 
to succumb to the contagion. After only a day’s illness he 
passed away suddenly and quietly in his sleep. Just as the 
space of a year had seen the birth of Napoleon, Beethoven 
and Hegel, so in the years from 1827 to 1832 Germany lost 
Goethe, Hegel, and Beethoven. It was the end of an epoch, 
the last fine effort of Germany’s greatest age. 

^ Paulsen, Immanuel Kant, p. 885. 



CHAPTER VII 


SCHOPENHAUER 

I. THE AGE 

W HY did the first half of the nineteenth century lift 
up, as voices of the age, a group of pessimistic poets 
—Byron in England, De Musset in France, Heine in 
Germany, Leopardi in Italy, Pushkin and Lermontof in 
Russia; a group of pessimistic composers—Schubert, Schu¬ 
mann, Chopin, and even the later Beethoven (a pessimist try¬ 
ing to convince himself that he is an optimist) ; and above all, 
a profoundly pessimistic philosopher—Arthur Schopenhauer? 

That great anthology of woe. The World as Will and Idea^ 
appeared in 1818. It was the age of the “Holy” Alliance. 
Waterloo had been fought, the Revolution was dead, and the 
“Son of the Revolution” was rotting on a rock in a distant 
sea. Something of Schopenhauer’s apotheosis of Will was 
due to that magnificent and bloody apparition of the Will 
made flesh in the little Corsican; and something of his despair 
of life came from the pathetic distance of St. Helena—^Will 
defeated at last, and dark Death the only victor of all the 
wars. The Bourbons were restored, the feudal barons were 
returning to claim their lands, and the pacific idealism of 
Alexander had unwittingly mothered a league for the suppres¬ 
sion of progress everywhere. The great age was over. “I 
thank God,” said Goethe, “that I am not young in so thor¬ 
oughly finished a world.” 

All Europe lay prostrate. Millions of strong men had 
perished; millions of acres of land had been neglected or laid 
waste; everywhere on the Continent life had to begin again at 
the bottom, to recover painfully and slowly the civilizing 
economic surplus that had been swallowed up in war. 

326 



SCHOPENHAUER 


327 


Schopenhauer, traveling through France and Austria in 1804, 
was struck by the chaos and uncleanliness of the villages, the 
wretched poverty of the farmers, the unrest and misery of 
the towns. The passage of the Napoleonic and counter- 
Napoleoiiic armies had left scars of ravage on the face of 
every country. ]\Ioscow was in ashes. In England, proud 
victor in the strife, the farmers were ruined hy llie fall in the 
price of wheat; and the industrial workers vere tasting all 
the horrors of the nascent and uiKonlrolled factory-system. 
Demobilization added to unem])loyincnt. ‘T have heard my 
father say,’’ wrote Carlyle, ‘‘that in the years when oatmeal 
was as high as ten shillings a stone, he had noticed the laborers 
retire each separately to a brook, and there drink instead of 
dining, anxious only to hide their misery from one another.” ^ 
Never had life seemed so meaningless, or so mean. 

Yes, the Revolution was dead; and with it the life seemed 
to have gone out of the soul of Europe. That new heaven, 
called Utopia, whose glamour had relieved the twilight of the 
gods, had receded into a dim future where only young eyes 
could see it; the older ones had followed that lure long 
enough, and turned away from it now as a mockery of men’s 
hopes. Only the young can live in the future, and only the 
old can live in the past; men were most of them forced to e 
in the present, and the present was a ruin. How many thou¬ 
sands of heroes and believers had fought for the Revolution! 
How the hearts of youth everywhere in Europe had turned 
towards the young republic, and had lived on the light and 
hope of it,—until Beethoven tore into shreds the dedication 
of his Heroic Symphony to the man who had ceased to be the 
Son of the Revolution and had become the son-in-law of 
reaction. How many had fought even then for the great 
hope, and had believed, with passionate uncertainty, to the 
very end.^^ And now here was the very end: Waterloo, and 
St. Helena, and Vienna; and on the throne of prostrate France 
a Bourbon who had learned nothing and forgotten nothing. 

1 Froude; Life and Letters of Thomas Carlyle, L i>. 52 



SJ28 THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 

This was the glorious denouement of a generation of such 
hope and effort as human history liad never known before. 
What a comedy this tragedy was—for those Avhose laughter 
was yet bitter with tears! 

Many of the poor had, in these days of disillusionment and 
suffering, the consolation of religious hope; but a large pro¬ 
portion of the upper classes had lost their faith, and looked 
out upon a ruined world with no alleviating vision of a vaster 
life in whose final justice and beauty these ugly ills would be 
dissolved. And in truth it was hard enough to believe that 
such a sorry planet as men saw in 1818 was held up in the 
hand of an intelligent and benevolent God. Mephistopheles 
had triumphed, and every Faust was in despair. Voltaire had 
sown the whirlwind, and Schopenhauer was to reap the harvest. 

Seldom had the problem of evil been flung so vividly and 
insistently into the face of philosophy and religion. Every 
martial grave from Boulogne to Moscow and the Pyramids 
lifted a mute interrogation to the indifferent stars. How 
long, O Lord, and Why.'* Was this almost universal calamity 
the vengeance of a just God on the Age of Reason and un¬ 
belief.'* Was it a call to the penitent intellect to bend before 
the ancient virtues of faith, hope and charity? So Schlegel 
thought, and Novalis, and Chateaubriand, and Dc Musset, 
and Southey, and Wordsworth, and Gogol; and they turned 
back to the old faith like wasted prodigals happy to be home 
again. But some others made harsher answer: that the chaos 
of Europe but reflected the chaos of the universe; that there 
was no divine order after all, nor any heavenly hope; that 
God, if God there was, was blind, and Evil brooded over the 
face of the earth. So Byrcn, and Heine, and Lermontof, and 
Leopardi, and our philosopher. 

n. THE MAX 

Schopenhauer was born at Dantzig on February 22, 1788. 
His father was a merchant noted for ability, hot temper, 



SCHOPENHAUER 


329 


independence of character, and love of liberty. He moved 
from Dantzig to Hamburg wlien Arthur was five years old, 
because Dantzig lost its freedom in the annexation of Poland 
in 1793. Young Schopenhauer, therefore, grew up in the 
midst of business and finance; and tliough he soon abandoned 
the mercantile career into whicli his father liad puslied him, 
it left its mark upon him in a certain bluntness of manner, a 
realistic turn of mind, a knowledge of tlie world and of men; 
it made him the antipodes of that closet or academic type of 
philosopher whom he so despised. The father died, ap¬ 
parently by his own hand, in 1805. The paternal grand¬ 
mother had died insane. 

‘‘The character or will,” saj^s Schopenhauer, “is inherited 
from the father; the intellect from the mother.”^ The 
mother had intellect—she became one of the most popular 
novelists of her day—but she had temperament and temper 
too. She had been unhappy with her prosaic husband; and 
when he died she took to free love, and moved to Weimar as 
the fittest climate for that sort of life. Arthur Schopenhauer 
reacted to this as Hamlet to his mother’s re-marriage; and 
his quarrels with his mother taught him a large part of 
those half-truths about women with which he was to season 
his philosophy. One of her letters to him reveals the state of 
their affairs: “You are unbearable and burdensome, and 
very hard to live with; all your good qualities are over¬ 
shadowed by your conceit, and made useless to the world 
simply because you cannot restrain your piupensity to pick 
holes in other people.” “ So they arranged to live apart; he 
was to come only to her “at homes,” and be one guest among 
others; they could then be as polite to each other as strangers, 
instead of hating each other like relatives. Goethe, who liked 
Mme. Schopenhauer because she let him bring his Christiane 
with him, made matters worse by telling the mother that her 
son would become a very famous man; the mother had never 

1 The World as Will and Idea; London, 1883; lii, 300. 

«In Wallace: Life of Schopenhauer; London, no date; p. 59. 



S30 THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 

heard of two geniuses in the same family. Finally, in some 
culminating quarrel, the mother pushed her son and rival down 
the stairs; whereupon our philosopher bitterly informed her 
that she would be known to posterity only through him. 
Schopenhauer quitted Weimar soon afterward; and though 
the mother lived twenty-four j’^ears more, he never saw her 
again. Byron, also a child of 1788, seems to have had 
similar luck with his mother. These men were almost by this 
circumstance doomed to pessimism; a man who has not known 
a mother’s love—and worse, has known a mother’s hatred— 
has no cause to be infatuated with the world. 

Meanwhile Schopenhauer had gone through “gymnasium” 
and university, and had learned more than was on their 
schedules. He had his fling at love and the world, with results 
that affected his character and his philosophy.^ He became 
gloomy, cynical, and suspicious; he was obsessed with fears 
and evil fancies; he kept his pipes under lock and key, and 
never trusted his neck to a barber’s razor; and he slept with 
loaded pistols at his bedside—presumably for the convenience 
of the burglar. He could not bear noise: “I have long 
held the opinion,” he writes, “that the amount of noise which 
anyone can bear undisturbed stands in inverse proportion to 
his mental capacity, and may therefore be regarded as a pretty 
fair measure of it. . . . Noise is a torture to all intellectual 
people. . . . The superabundant display of vitality wdiich 
takes the form of knocking, hammering, and tumbling things 
about, has proved a daily torment to me all my life long.” ^ 
He had an almost paranoiac sense of unrecognized greatness; 
missing success and fame, he turned within and gnawed at his 
own soul. 

He had no mother, no wife, no child, no family, no country. 
‘‘'He was absolutely alone, with not a single friend; and be¬ 
tween one and none there lies an infinity.” ^ Even more than 

iCf. Wallace, 92. 

2 The World as Will arid Id(*a, il, 199; Essays, “On Noise.’* 

• Nietzsche: {Schopenhauer as Educator; London, 1910; p. 122. 



SCHOPENHAUER 331 

Goethe he was immune to the nationalistic fevers of his age. 
In 1813 he so far fell under the sway of Fichte’s enthusiasm 
for a war of liberation against Napoleon, that he thought of 
volunteering, and actually bought a set of arms. But pru¬ 
dence seized him in time; he argued that “Napoleon gave after 
all only concentrated and untrammcled utterance to that self- 
assertion and lust for more life which weaker mortals feel 
but must perforce disguise.” ^ Instead of going to war he 
went to the country and wrote a doctor’s thesis in philoso- 
phy. 

After this dissertation On the Fourfold Root of Sufficient 
Reason (1813),- Schopenhauer gave all his time, and devoted 
all his power, to the w'ork which was to be his masterpiece— 
The World as Will and Idea. He sent tlie ]\IS. to the pub¬ 
lisher magna cum htude; Iicre, he said, was no mere rehash of 
old ideas, but a highly coherent structure of original thought, 
“clearly intelligible, vigorous, and not without beauty”; a book 
•*which would hereafter be the source and occasion of a hun¬ 
dred other books.” ® All of which was outrageously egotistic, 
and absolutely true. Many years later Schopenhauer was so 
sure of having solved the chief problems of philosophy that 
he thought of having his signet ring carved w’ith an image 
of the Sphinx throwing herself down the abyss, as she had 
promised to do on having her riddles answered. 

Nevertheless, the book attracted hardly any attention; the 
world was too poor and exhausted to read about its poverty and 
exhaustion. Sixteen years after publication Schopenhauer 
was informed that the greater part of the edition had been sold 

1 Wallace: Article “Schopenhauer” in the Eneyclo'pedia Brittanica, 

• Schopenhauer insists, liarilly with suffieiont reason, .and almost to the point 
of salesmanship, tli.it this hook iii.i t i'c real before the ireiW an Will and 
Idea can be understood. The reader may neverliieless rest content witn 
knowing that the “principle of sufficient reason’’ is the "law of cause and ef¬ 
fect,” in four forms: 1—Logical, as the determination of conclu.sion by 
premises; 2—Physical, as the detennination of effect by cause; 3—Mathemat¬ 
ical, as the determination of structure by the laws of mathematics and me¬ 
chanics; and 4—Moral, as the determination of conduct by character. 

«In "Wallace, Life, p. 107. 



882 


THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 


as waste paper. In his essay on Fame, in “The Wisdom of 
Life,” he quotes, with evident allusion to his masterpiece, two 
remarks of Lichtenberger’s: “Works like this are as a mirror: 
if an ass looks in you cannot expect an angel to look out”; and 
“when a head and a book come into collision, and one sounds 
hollow, is it always the book?” Schopenhauer goes on, with 
the voice of wounded vanity: “The more a man belongs to pos¬ 
terity—in other words, to humanity in general—so much the 
more is he an alien to his contemporaries; for since his work is 
not meant for them as such, but only in so far as they form part 
of mankind at large, there is none of that familiar local color 
about his productions which would ai)i)cal to them.” And then 
he becomes as eloquent as the fox in the fable: “Would 
a musician feel flattered by the loud applause of an audience 
if he knew that they were nearly all deaf, and that to con¬ 
ceal their infirmity he saw one or two persons applauding? 
And what would he say if he discovered that those one or two 
persons had often taken bribes to secure the loudest applause 
for the poorest player?”—In some men egotism is a compensa¬ 
tion for the absence of fame; in others, egotism lends a gener¬ 
ous cooperation to its presence. 

So completely did Schopenhauer put himself into this book 
that his later works are but commentaries on it; he became 
Talmudist to his ohti Torah, exegete to his own Jeremiads. 
In 1836 he published an essay On the Will in Nature, which 
was to some degree incorporated into the enlarged edition of 
The World as Will and Idea which appeared in 1844. In 
1841 came The Two Ground-Problems of Ethics, and in 1851 
two substantial volumes of Parerga ct Paralipomena —^liter¬ 
ally, “By-products and Leavings”—which have been trans¬ 
lated into English as the Essays. For this, the most readable 
of his works, and replete with wisdom and wit, Schopenhauer 
received, as his total remuneration, ten free copies. Optimism 
is diflScult under such circumstances. 

Only one adventure disturbed the monotony of his studious 



SCHOPENHAUER 


333 


seclusion after leaving Weimar. He had hoped for a chance 
to present his philosophy at one of the great universities of 
Germany; the chance came in 1822, when he was invited to 
Berlin as privat-docent. He deliberately chose for his lec¬ 
tures the very hours at which the then mighty Hegel was 
scheduled to teach; Schopenhauer trusted that the students 
would view him and Hegel with the eyes of posterity. But the 
students could not so far anticipate, and Schopenhauer found 
himself talking to empty scats. He resigned, and revenged 
himself by those bitter diatribes against Hegel which mar 
the later editions of his chcf-d'ceuvre. In 1831 a cholera epi¬ 
demic broke out in Berlin; both Hegel and Schopenliaucr fled; 
but Hegel returned prematurely, caught the infection, and died 
in a few days. Schopenhauer never stopped until he reached 
Frankfort, where he spent the remainder of his seventy-two 
years. 

Like a sensible pessimist, he had avoided that pitfall of op¬ 
timists—^the attempt to make a living with the pen. He had 
inherited an interest in liis father’s firm, and lived in modest 
comfort on the revenue which this brought him. He invested 
his money with a wisdom unbecoming a philosopher. When 
a company in which he had taken sliares failed, and the other 
creditors agreed to a 70% settlement, Schopenhauer fought for 
full payment, and won. He had enough to engage two rooms 
in a boarding-house; there he lived the last thirty years of his 
life, with no comrade but a dog. He called the little poodle 
Atma (the Brahmins’ term for the World-Soul), but the wags 
of the town called it “Young Schopenhauer.” He ate his din- 
hers, usually, at the Englischcr Hof, At the beginning of 
each meal he would put a gold coin upon the table before him; 
and at the end of each meal he would put the coin back into 
his pocket. It was, no doubt, an indignant waiter who at last 
asked him the meaning of this invariable ceremony. Schopen¬ 
hauer answered that it was his silent wager to drop the coin 
into the poor-box on the first day that the English oflScers din- 



334! THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 

ing there should talk of anything else than horses, women, or 
dogs.^ 

The universities ignored him and his books, as if to sub¬ 
stantiate his claim that all advances in philosophy are made 
outside of academic walls. “Nothing,” says Nietzsche, “so 
offended the German savants as Schopenhauer’s unlikeness to 
them.” But he had learned some patience; he was confident 
that, however belated, recognition would come. And at last, 
slowly, it came. Men of the middle classes—lawyers, physi¬ 
cians, merchants—found in him a philosopher who offered 
them no mere pretentious jargon of metaphysical unrealities, 
but an intelligible survey of the phenomena of actual life. A 
Europe disillusioned with the ideals and efforts of 1848 turned 
almost with acclamation to this philosophy that had voiced 
the despair of 1815. The attack of science upon theology, 
the socialist indictment of poverty and w’ar, the biological 
stress on the struggle for existence,—all these factors helped 
to lift Schopenhauer finally to fame. 

He was not too old to enjoy his popularity: he read wdth 
avidity all the articles that appeared about him; he asked his 
friends to send him every bit of printed comment they could 
find—he would pay the postage. In 1854 Wagner sent him 
a copy of Der Ring der Nibelugen, with a word in apprecia¬ 
tion of Schopenhauer’s philosophy of music. So the great 
pessimist became almost an optimist in his old age; he played 
the flute assiduously after dinner, and thanked Time for rid¬ 
ding him of the fires of youth. People came from all over the 
world to see him; and on his seventieth birthday, in 1858, 
congratulations poured in upon him from all quarters and 
every continent. 

It was not too soon; he had but two more years to live. On 
September 21, I860, he sat down alone to breakfast, appar¬ 
ently well. An hour later his landlady found him still seated 
at the table, dead. 

1 Wallace, 171. 



SCHOPENHAUER 


SSS 


ni. THE WORLD AS IDEA 

What strikes the reader at once upon opening The World 
j$ Will and Idea is its style. Here is no Chinese puzzle of 
Kantian terminology, no Hegelian obfuscation, no Spinozist 
geometry; everything is clarity and order; and all is admirably 
centered about the leading conception of the world as will, 
and therefore strife, and therefore misery. What blunt 
honesty, what refreshing vigor, what uncompromising direct¬ 
ness! Where his predecessors are abstract to the point of 
invisibility, with theories that give out few windows of illustra¬ 
tion upon the actual world, Schopenhauer, like the son of a bus¬ 
iness man, is rich in the concrete, in examples, in applications, 
even in humor.^ After Kant, humor in philosophy was a 
startling innovation. 

But why w’as the book rejected? Partly because it at¬ 
tacked just those w^ho could have given it publicity—the uni¬ 
versity teachers. Hegel was philosopliic dictator of Germany 
in 1818; yet Schopenhauer loses no time in assailing him. In 
the preface to the second edition he writes: 

No time can be more unfavorable to philosophy than that 
in which it is shamefully misused on the one hand to further 
political objects, on the other as a means of livelihood. • . • 

Is there then nothing to oppose to the maxim, Primum 
viverCy deinde philosophari? " Tliese gentlemen desire to 
live, and indeed to live by philosophy. To philosophy they 
are assigned, with their wives and children. . . . The rule, 

‘T sing the song of him whose bread I cat,” has always held 

lOne instance of his humor had better be buried in the obscurity of a 
foot-note. “The actor Unzclmann,” notorious for adding remarks of his 
own to the lines of the playwright, “was forbidden, at the Berlin theatre, 
to improvise. Soon afterwards he had to appear upon the stage on horse¬ 
back.” Just us they entered, the horse was guilty of conduct seriously 
unbecoming a public stage. “The audience began to laugh; whereupon 
Unzclmann severely reproached the horse:—‘Do you not know that we are 
forbidden to improvise?’”—Vol. ii, p. 273. 

2 First one must live, then one may philosophize. 



THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 


9S6 

good; the making of money by philosophy was regarded by 
the ancients as the characteristic of the sophists. . • . Noth¬ 
ing is to be had for gold but mediocrity. ... It is impossible 
that an age which for twenty years has applauded a Hegel— 
that intellectual Caliban—as the greatest of the philoso¬ 
phers, . . . could make him who has looked on at that 
desirous of its approbation. . . . I3ut rather, truth will al¬ 
ways be pauconim liominum^ and must therefore quietly and 
modestly wait for the few whose unusual mode of thought 
may find it enjoyable. . . . Life is short, but truth works 
far and lives long; let us speak the truth. 

These last w^ords are nobly spoken; but there is something 
of sour grapes in it all; no man was ever more anxious for ap¬ 
probation than Schopenhauer. It would have been nobler 
still to say nothing ill of Hegel; de vivis nil nisi bonum —of 
the living let us say nothing but good. And as for mod¬ 
estly awaiting recognition,—cannot sec,’’ says Schopen¬ 
hauer, “that between Kant and myself anything has been done 
in philosophy.” ^ “I hold this thought—that the world is will 
—to be that which has long been sought for under the name 
of philosophy, and the discovery of which is therefore re¬ 
garded, by those who are familiar with history, as quite as 
impossible as the discovery of the philosopher’s stone.” ^ “I 
only intend to impart a single thought. Yet, notwithstand¬ 
ing all my endeavors, I could find no shorter w^ay of imparting 
it than this whole book. . . . Read the book twice, and the 
first time with great patience.” ^ So much for modesty! 
“What is modesty but hypocritical humility, by means of 
which, in a world swelling with envy, a man seeks to obtain 
pardon for excellences and merits from those who have 
none.^”® “No doubt, when modesty was made a virtue, it 

1 Of few men. 

2 Vol. ii, p. 5. 

^ VoL i, p. vii. 

viii. In fact, this is just what one must do; many have found even 
a third reading fruitful. A great book is like a great symphony, which 
must be heard many times before it can be really understood. 



SCHOPENHAUER 337 

was a very advantageous thing for the fools; for everybody 
is expected to speak of himself as if he were one.” ^ 

There was no humility about the first sentence of Schopen* 
hauer’s book. ‘‘The world,” it begins, “is my idea.” When 
Fichte had uttered a similar proposition even the metaphys¬ 
ically sophisticated Germans had asked,—“What does his wife 
say about this?” But Schopenhauer had no wife. His mean¬ 
ing, of course, was simple enough: he wished to accept at the 
outset the Kantian position that the external world is known 
to us only through our sensations and ideas. There follows 
an exposition of idealism which is clear and forceful enough, 
but which constitutes the least original part of the book, and 
might better have come last than first. The world took u 
generation to discover Schopenhauer because he put his worst 
foot forward, and hid 1p*s own thought behind a two-hundred- 
page barrier of second-hand idealism.- 

The most vital part of the first section is an attack on ma¬ 
terialism. How can we explain mind as matter, when we know 
matter only through mind? 

If we had followed materialism thus far with clear ideas, 
when we reached its highest point we would suddenly be 
seized with a fit of the inextinguishable laughter of the Olym¬ 
pians. As if waking from a dream, we would all at once be¬ 
come aware that its final result—knowledge—which it had 
reached so laboriously, was presupposed as the indispensable 
condition of its very starting-point. Mere matter; and 
when we imagined that we thought matter, we really^ thought 
only the subject that perceives matter: the eye that sees it, 
^Essays, “On Pride.’’ 

2 Instead of recommending books about Schopenhauer it would be better 
to send the reader to Schopenhauer himself: all three volumes of his main 
Work (witli the exception of Part I in each volume) are easy reading, and 
full of matter; and all the Essays are valuable and delightful. By way 
of biography Wallace’s Life should suffice. In this essay it has been thought 
desirable to condense Schopenhauer’s Immense volumes not by rephrasing 
their ideas, but by selecting and coordinating the salient passages, and 
leaving the thought in the philosopher’s own clear and brilliant language. The 
reader will have the benefit of getting Schopenhauer at first hand, however 
brieflv. 



THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 


338 

the hand that feels it, the understanding that knows it. 
Thus the tremendous petitio principii reveals itself anex- 
pectedly; for suddenly the last link is seen to be the starting- 
point, the chain a circle; and the materialist is like Baron 
Munchausen, who, when swimming on horseback, drew the 
horse into the air with his legs, and himself by his queue.^ . . . 
The crude materialism which even now, in the middle of the 
nineteenth century,^ has been served up again under the ig¬ 
norant delusion that it is original, . . . stupidly denies vital 
force, and first of all tries to explain the phenomena of life 
from physical and chemical forces, and those again from 
the mechanical effects of matter."^ . . , But I will never be¬ 
lieve that even the simplest chemical combination will ever 
admit of mechanical explanation; much less the properties 
of light, heat, and electricity. These will always require a 
dynamical explanation."^ 

No: it is impossible to solve the metaphysical puzzle, to 
discover the secret essence of reality, by examining matter 
first, and then proceeding to examine thought: we must begin 
with that which we know directly and intimately—ourselves. 
‘We can never arrive at the real nature of things from with¬ 
out. However much we may investigate, we can never reach 
anything but images and names. We are like a man who 
goes round a castle seeking in vain for an entrance, and some¬ 
times sketching the fafades.” ® Let us enter within. If we 
can ferret out the ultimate nature of our own minds we shall 
perhaps have the key to the external world. 

IV. THE WORLD AS WILL 

1. The Will to Live 

Almost without exception, philosophers have placed the es¬ 
sence of mind in thought and consciousness; man was the 
il, 34. 

2 Vogt, Biichner, Moleschott, Feuerbach, etc. 

8 I, 159. 

4 III, 43. 

• I, 128. 



SCHOPENHAUER 


339 

knowing animal, the animal rationale. ^^This ancient and 
universal radical error, this enormous proton pseudos,^ . . . 
must before everything be set aside.” ^ ‘‘Consciousness is the 
mere surface of our minds, of which, as of the earth, we do 
not know the inside but only the crust.” lender the con¬ 
scious intellect is the conscious or unconscious will, a striving, 
persistent vital force, a spontaneous activity, a will of im¬ 
perious desire. The intellect may seem at times to lead the 
will, but only as a guide leads his master; the will “is the 
strong blind man who carries on his shoulders the lame man 
who can see.” ^ We do not want a thing because we have 
found reasons for it, we find reasons for it because Ave want it; 
we even elaborate pliilosophics and theologies to cloak our 
desires.® Hence Schopenhauer calls man the “metaphysical 
animal”: other animals desire without metaphysics. “Noth¬ 
ing is more provoking, when we are arguing against a man 
vith reasons and explanations, and taking all pains to con^^ 
vince him, than to discover at last that he will not understand, 
that we have to do with his xcilU^ ® Hence the uselessness of 
logic: no one ever convinced anybody by logic; and even logi¬ 
cians use logic only as a source of income. To convince a 
man, you must appeal to his self-interest, his desires, his 
will. Observe how long we remember our victories, and how 
soon Ave forget our defeats; memory is the menial of willJ 
“In doing accounts we make mistakes much oftener in our 
own favor than to our disadvantage; and this without the 
slightest dishonest intention.” ^ “On the other hand, the un¬ 
derstanding of the stupidest man becomes keen when objects 

A First lie, initial mistake. 

2 II, 409. Schopenhauer forgets (or does he take his lead from?) Spinoza's 
emphatic statement: “Desire is the very essence of man.”—KfWc#, part iv* 
prop. 18. Fichte had also emphasized the will. 

8 II, 328. 

^ II, 421. 

8 A source of Frreud. 

«III, 443. 

V Essays, “Counsels and Maxims,” p. 126. 

^11,483. 



340 


THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 


are in question that closely concern his wishes”; ^ in general, 
the intellect is developed by danger, as in the fox, or by want, 
as in the criminal. But always it seems subordinate and in- 
strumental to desire; when it attempts to displace the will, con¬ 
fusion follows. No one is more liable to mistakes than he 
who acts only on reflection.* 

Consider the agitated strife of men for food, mates, or chil¬ 
dren; can this be the work of reflection.? Certainly not; the 
cause is the half conscious will to live, and to live fully. “]\Ien 
are only apparently drawn from in front; in reality they are 
pushed from behind”; ® they think they are led on by what 
they see, when in truth they are driven on by what they feel, 
—by instincts of whose operation they are half the time un¬ 
conscious. Intellect is merely the minister of foreign affairs; 
**nature has produced it for the service of the individual 
will. Therefore it is only designed to know' things so far as 
they afford motives for the will, but not to fathom them or 
to comprehend their true being.” * “The will is the only per¬ 
manent and unchangeable element in the mind; ... it is the 
will which,” through continuity of purpose, “gives unity to 
consciousness and holds together all its ideas and thoughts, ac¬ 
companying them like a continuous harmony.” ® It is the 
organ-point of thought. 

Character lies in the will, and not in the intellect; charac¬ 
ter too is continuity of purpose and attitude: and these are 
will. Popular language is correct when it prefers the “heart” 
to the “head”; it knows (because it has not reasoned about 
it) that a “good will” is profounder and more reliable than a 
clear mind; and when it calls a man “shrewd,” “knowing,” or 
“cunning” it implies its suspicion and dislike. “Brilliant 
qualities of mind win admiration, but never affection”; and 
“all religions promise a reward . . . for excellences of the 

1II, 437. 

8II, 251. 

sill, 118. 

s II, 463, 826; a source of Bergson. 

sll, 883. 



SCHOPENHAUER 341 

'uMl or heart, but none for excellences of the head or under¬ 
standing.” ^ 

Even the body is the product of the will. The blood, 
pushed on by that will which we vaguely call life, builds its 
own vessels by wearing grooves in the body of the embryo; the 
grooves deepen and close up, and become arteries and veins.^ 
The will to know builds the brain just as the will to grasp 
forms the hand, or as the will to eat develops the digestive 
tract.^ Indeed, these pairs—these forms of will and these 
forms of flesh—are but two sides of one process and reality. 
The relation is best seen in emotion, where the feeling and 
the internal bodily changes form one complex unlt.^ 

The act of will and the movement of the body are not two 
different things objectively known, which tlie bond of causal¬ 
ity unites; they do not stand in the relation of cause and 
effect; they are one and the same, but they are given in en¬ 
tirely different ways,—immediately, and again in percep¬ 
tion. . . . The action of the body is nothing but the act of 
the will objectified. This is true of every movement of 
the body; . . . the whole body is nothing but objectified 
will. . . . The parts of the body must therefore completely 
correspond to the principal desires through whicli the will 
manifests itself; they must be the visible expression of these 
desires. Teeth, throat and bowels are objectified hunger; 
the organs of generation are objectified sexual desire. . . . 
The w'hole nervous system constitutes the antennae of the 
will, which it stretches within and without. ... As the hu¬ 
man body generally corresponds to the human will generally, 
so the individual bodily structure corresponds to the indi¬ 
vidually modified will, the character of the individual.^" 

The intellect tires, the wdll never; the intellect needs sleep, 
but the will works even in sleep. Fatigue, like pain, has its 

HI, 450, 449. 

2 IT, 479. 

«IT, 486. Tills is the Lamarckian view of grow'tli and evolution as due 
to desires and functions compelling structures and begetting organs. 

** I, 132. A source for the James-Lange theory of emotion ? 

»I, 130^141; II, 482. Cf, Soinoza. Ethic$, III, 2. 



842 


THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 


seat in the brain; muscles not connected with the cerebrum (like 
the heart) never tire. ^ In sleep the brain feeds; but the will 
requires no food. Hence the need for sleep is greatest in 
brain-workers. (This fact, however, “must not mislead us 
into extending sleep unduly; for then it loses in intensity . . . 
and becomes mere loss of time.”) ^ In sleep the life of man 
sinks to the vegetative level, and then “the will works accord¬ 
ing to its original and essential nature, undisturbed from with¬ 
out, with no diminution of its power througli the activity of 
the brain and the exertion of knowing, which is the heaviest 
organic function; . . . therefore in sleep the whole power of 
the will is directed to the maintenance and improvement of the 
organism. Hence all healing, all favorable crises, take place 
in sleep.” ® Burdach was right when he declared sleep to be 
the original state. The embryo sleeps almost continuously, 
and the infant most of the time. Life is “a struggle against 
sleep: at first we win ground from it, which in the end it re¬ 
covers. Sleep is a morsel of death borrowed to keep up and 
renew that part of life which has been exhausted by the day.” * 
It is our eternal foe; even when we are awake it possesses us 
partly. After all, what is to be expected of heads even the 
wisest of which is every night the scene of the strangest and 
the most senseless dreams, and which has to take up its med' 
itations again on awakening from them?” ® 

Will, then, is the essence of man. Now what if it is also 
the essence of life in all its forms, and even of “inanimate” 
matter? What if will is the long-sought-for, the long- 
despaired-of, “thing-in-itself,”—the ultimate inner reality and 
secret essence of all things? 

Let us try, then, to interpret the external world in terms of 

1II, 424. But is there no such thing as the satiation or exhaustion of 
desire? In profound fatigue or sickness even the will to live fades. 

2II, 468. 

«II, 463. 

4 “Counsels and Maxims,*’ essay “On Our Relations to Ourselves.” 

4II, 883. 



SCHOPENHAUER 


34a 


will. And let us go at once to the bottom; where others have 
fiaid that will is a form of force let us say that force is a form 
of will.^ To Hume’s question—^What is causality?—we shall 
answer, Will. As will is the universal cause in ourselves, so is 
it in things; and unless we so understand cause as will, caus~ 
ality will remain only a magic and mystic formula, really 
meaningless. Without this secret we are driven to mere occult 
qualities like “force,” or “gravity,” or “affinity”; we do not 
know wdiat these forces are, but we know^—at least a little 
more clearly—w hat w ill is; let us say, then, that repulsion and 
attraction, combination and decomposition, magnetism and 
electricity, gravity and crystallization, are Will.- Goethe ex¬ 
pressed this idea in the title cf one of his novels, when he called 
the irresistible attraction of lovers die Walilverzcandschaften 
—“elective affinities.” The force which draw’s the lover, and 
the force which draw’s the planet, arc one. 

So in plant life. The low’er we go among the forms of 
life the smaller w^e find the role of intellect; but not so with 
will. 


That which in us pursues its ends by the light of knowl¬ 
edge, but here . . . only strives blindly and dumbly in a 
one-sided and unchangeable manner, must yet in both eases 
come under the name of Will. . . . Unconscioubness is the 
original and natural condition of all things, and therefore 
also the basis from which, in particular species of beings, 
consciousness results as their liighest efflorescence; where¬ 
fore even then unconsciousness always continues to pre¬ 
dominate. Accordingly, most existences are without con¬ 
sciousness; but yet thej^ act according to the laws of their 
nature,—i. e., of their will. Plants have at most a very 
weak analogue of consciousness; the low^est species of ani¬ 
mals only the dawm of it. But even after it lias ascended 
through the whole series of animals to man and his reason^ 
the unconsciousness of plants, from which it started, still re- 

1 1, 144. 
a I, 142. 



844 THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 

mains the foundation, and may be traced in the necessity fof 

sleep.* 

Aristotle was right: there is a power within that moulds 
every form, in plants and planets, in animals and men. “The 
instinct of animals in general gives us the best illustration of 
what remains of teleology in nature. For as instinct is an 
action similar to that which is guided by the conception of 
an end, and yet is entirely without this; so all construction in 
nature resembles that which is guided by the conception of an 
end, and yet is entirely without it.” - The marvelous me¬ 
chanical skill of animals shows how prior the will is to the in¬ 
tellect. An elephant which had been led through Europe, and 
had crossed hundreds of bridges, refused to advance upon a 
weak bridge, though it had seen many horses and men crossing 
it. A young dog fears to jump down from the table; it fore¬ 
sees the effect of the fall not by reasoning (for it has no expe¬ 
rience of such a fall) but by instinct. Orang-outangs warm 
themselves by a fire which they find, but they do not feed the 
fire; obviously, then, such actions are instinctive, and not the 
result of reasoning; they are the expression not of intellect but 
of will.® 

The will, of course, is a will to live, and a will to maximum 
life. How dear life is to all living things!—and with what 
silent patience it will bide its time! “For thousands of years 
galvanism slumbered in copper and zinc, and they lay quietly 
beside silver, which must be consumed in flame as soon as all 
three are brought together under the required conditions. 
Even in the organic kingdom we see a dry seed preserve the 
slumbering force of life through three thousand years, and, 
when at last the favorable circumstances occur, grow up as a 
plant.” Living toads found in limestone lead to the conclu¬ 
sion that even animal life is capable of suspension for thou- 

11, 163; II, 418, 337. 

3 1 , 210 . 

SI, 29. 



SCHOPENHAUER 345 

sands of years.^ The will is a will to live; and its eternal 
enemy is death. 

But perhaps it can defeat even death? 

2. The Will to Reproduce 

It can, by the strategy and martyrdom of reproduction. 
Every normal organism liastens, at malurit\% to sacrifice it-^ 
self to tlie task of reproduction: from the spider who is eaten 
up by the female he has just fertilized, or the wasp that de¬ 
votes itself to gathering food for offspring it will never see, 
to the man who wears himself to ruin in the effort to feed 
and clothe and educate his children. Reproduction is the ulti¬ 
mate purpose of every organism, and its strongest instinct; 
for only so can the will conquer death. And to ensure this 
conquest of death, the will to reproduce is placed almost en¬ 
tirely beyond control of knowledge or reflection: even a philos¬ 
opher, occasionally, has children. 

The will shows itself here as independent of knowledge, 
and works blindly, as in unconscious nature. . . . Accord¬ 
ingly, the reproductive organs are properly the focus of 
will, and form the opposite pole to the brain, which is the 
representative of knowledge. . . . The former are the life- 
sustaining principle,—they ensure endless life; ‘‘for this rea¬ 
son they were worshipped by the Greeks in the phallus and 
by the Hindus in the lingam. . . . Hesiod and rarmcnides 
said very significantly that Kros is the first, the creator, 
the principle from which all things proceed. The relation 
of the sexes ... is really the invisible central point of all 
action and conduct, and j>eeps out everywhere in spite of all 
veils thrown over it. It is the cause of war and the end of 
peace; the basis of what is serious, and the aim of the jest; 
the inexhaustible source of wdt, the key of all allusions, and 
the meaning of all mysterious hints.- , . . We see it at 

11, 178. 

* A source of Freud’s theory of ‘Svit and the unconscious.” 



B46 


THE STORY OF PHILOSOrHY 


every moment seat itself, as the true and hereditary lord of 
the world, out of the fullness of its own strength, upon the 
ancestral throne; and looking down thence with scornful 
glance, laugh at the preparations made to bind it, or im¬ 
prison it, or at least limit it and, w^hcrever possible, keep it 
concealed, and even so to master it that it shall only appear 
as a subordinate, secondary concern of life.^ 

The ‘^metaphysics of love” revolves about this subordination 
of the father to the mother, of the parent to the child, of the 
individual to the species. And first, the law of sexual attrac¬ 
tion is that the choice of mate is to a large extent determined, 
however unconsciously, by mutual fitness to procreate. 

Each seeks a mate that will neutralize his defects, lest they 
be inherited; . • . a physically weak man will seek a strong 
woman. . . . Each one will especially regard as beautiful in 
another individual those perfections which he himself lacks, 
nay, even those imperfections which are the opposite of his 
own.^ • . . The physical qualities of two individuals can be 
such that for the purpose of restoring as far as possible the 
type of the species, the one is quite specially and perfectly 
the completion and supplement of the other, which therefore 
desires it exclusively. . . . The profound consciousness with 
which we consider and ponder every part of the body, . . • 
the critical scrupulosity with which we look at a w oman who 
begins to please us . . . the individual here acts, without 
knowing it, by order of something higher than himself. . . . 
Every individual loses attraction for the opposite sex in pro¬ 
portion as he or she is removed from the fittest period for 
begetting or conceiving: . . . youth without beauty has still 
always attraction; beauty without youth has none. . • • 
That in every case of falling in love, . • , what alone is 

11, 426, 525; III, 314. Schopenhauer, like all who have suffered from sex, 
exaggerates its rdle; the parental relation probably outweighs the sexual 
In the minds of normal adults. 

«A source of Weininger. 



SCHOPENHAUER 


347 


looked to is the production of an individual of a definite 
nature, is primarily confirmed by the fact that the essential 
matter is not the reciprocation of love, but possession.^ 

Nevertheless, no unions are so unhappy as these love mar^ 
riages—and jirecisely for the reason that their aim is the per¬ 
petuation of the species, and not the pleasure of tlie individ¬ 
ual.* ‘‘He who marries from love must live in sorrow,” runs 
a Spanish proverb. Half the literature of the marriage prob¬ 
lem is stultified because it thinks of marriage as mating, in¬ 
stead of thinking of it as an arrangement for the preservation 
of the race. Nature does not seem to care whether the parents 
are “happy forever afterwards,” or only for a day, so long as 
reproduction is achieved. Marriages of convenience, ar¬ 
ranged by the parents of the mates, are often happier than 
marriages of love. Yet the woman who marries for love, 
against the advice of her parents, is in a sense to be admired; 
for “she has preferred what is of most importance, and has 
acted in the spirit of nature (more exactly, of the species), 
while the parents advised in the spirit of individual egoism.” ^ 
Love is the best eugenics. 

Since love is a deception practiced by nature, marriage is 
the attrition of love, and must bo disillusioning. Only a 
philosopher can be happy in marriage, and philosophers do not 
marry. 

Because the passion depended upon an illusion which rep¬ 
resented that which has value only for the species as valu¬ 
able for the individual, the deception must vanish after the 
attainment of the end of the species. The individual dis¬ 
covers that he has been the dupe of the species. If Pe¬ 
trarch's passion had been gratified, his song would have been 
silenced.'* 

1 III, 342, 357, 847, 360, 859, 352, 341. 

2 III, 872. 
olll, 871. 

4 III, 87a 



848 


THE STORY OF PHILOSOrHY 


The subordination of the individual to the species as in¬ 
strument of its continuance, appears again in the apparent 
dependence of individual vitality on the condition of the re¬ 
productive cells. 

The sexual impulse is to be regarded as the inner life of 
the tree (the species) upon which the life of the individual 
grows, like a leaf that is nourished by the tree and assists in 
nourishing the tree; this is why that impulse is so strong, 
and springs from the depths of our nature. To castrate an 
individual means to cut him off from the tree of the species 
upon which he grows, and thus severed, leaves him to wither; 
hence the degradation of his mental and physical powers. 
That the service of the species, i. e., fecundation, is fol¬ 
lowed in the case of every animal individual by momentary 
exhaustion and debility of all the powers, and in the case of 
most insects, indeed, by speedy death,—on account of 
which Celsus said, Seminis emissio est partis animae jac- 
tura; that in the case of man the extinction of the gen¬ 
erative power shows that the individual approaches death ; 
that excessive use of this power at every age sliortens life> 
while on the other hand, temperance in this respect increases 
all the powers, and especially the muscular powers, on which 
account it was part of the training of the Greek athletes; 
that the same restraint lengthens the life of the insect even 
to the following spring; all this points to the fact that the 
life of the individual is at bottom only borrowed from that of 
the species. . . . Procreation is the highest point; and after 
attaining to it, the life of the first individual quickly or 
slowly sinks, while a new life ensures to nature the endurance 
of the species, and repeats the same phenomena. . . . Thus 
the alternation of death and reproduction is as the pulse- 
beat of the species. . . . Death is for the species what sleep 
is for the individual; . . . this is nature’s great doctrine of 
immortality. . . . For the whole w^orld, with all its phe¬ 
nomena, is the objectivity of the one indivisible will, the Idea, 
which is related to all other Ideas as harmony is related to 
the single voice. ... In Eckermann’s Conversations with 
Goethe (vol. i, p. 161), Goethe says: ‘‘Our spirit is a being 



SCHOPENHAUER 


S49 


of a nature quite indestructible, and its activity continues 
from eternity to eternity. It is like the sun, which seems to 
set only to our eartl)ly eyes, but which, in reality, never sets, 
but shines on unceasingly.’’ Goethe has taken the simile 
from me, not I from him.^ 

Only in space and time do we seem to be separate beings; 
they constitute the ‘‘principle of individuation” which divides 
life into distinct organisms as a])pcaring in different places or 
periods; space and time are the Veil of Maya,—Illusion hid¬ 
ing tlie unity of things. In reality there is only the species, 
only life, only wull. “To understand clearly that the individ¬ 
ual is only the phenomenon, not the thing-in-itself,” to see in 
“the constant change of matter the fixed permanence of form,” 
—this is the essence of philosophy.^ “The motto of history 
should run: Eadevij sed alitery ^ The more things change, 
the more they remain the same. 

He to whom men and all things have not at all times ap¬ 
peared as mere phantoms or illusions, lias no capacity for 
philosophy. . . . The true philosophy of history lies in per¬ 
ceiving tliat, in all the endless changes and mo tie}" com¬ 
plexity of events, it is only the self-same unchangeable 
being that is before us, which today pursues the same ends 
as it did yesterday and ever will. The historical philoso¬ 
pher has accordingly to recognize the identical character in 
all events, . . . and in spite of all the variety of special 
circumstances, of costumes and manners and customs, has to 
see everywhere the same humanity. ... To have read 
Herodotus is, from a philosophical point of view", to have 
studied enough history. . . . Throughout and everyw’here 
the true symbol of nature is the circle, because it is the 
schema or type of recurrence.^ 

We like to believe that all history is a halting and imperfect 
preparation for the magnificent era of which we are the salt 

mi, 310; I, 214; III, 312, 270, 2^7; I, 206, 362. 

2 I, 357-8. 

8 ITT, 227. “The snme things, but in different ways.” 

* ITT, 227, 267; Wallace, 97. Cf. Nietzsche’s “eternal recurrence.’* 



S50 


THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 


and summit; but this notion of progress is mere conceit and 
folly. ‘Tn general, the wise in all ages have always said the 
same things, and the fools, who at all times form the immense 
majority, have in their way too acted alike, and done the 
opposite; and so it will continue. For, as Voltaire says, 
we shall leave the world as foolish and wicked as we found 
it.” ^ 

In the light of all this we get a new and grimmer sense of 
the inescapable reality of determinism. ‘‘Spinoza says (Epis¬ 
tle 62) that if a stone which has been projected through the 
air had consciousness, it would believe that it was moving of 
its own free will. I add to this only that the stone would be 
right. The impulse given it is for the stone what the motive 
is for me; and what in the stone appears as cohesion, gravita¬ 
tion, rigidity, is in its inner nature the same as that which I 
recognize in myself as will, and what the stone also, if knowl¬ 
edge were given to it, would recognize as will.” But in 
neither the stone nor the philosopher is the will “free.” Will 
as a whole is free, for there is no other will beside it that could 
limit it; but each part of the universal Will—each species, 
each organism, each organ—is irrevocably determined by the 
whole. 

Everyone believes himself a priori to be perfectly free, 
even in his individual actions, and thinks that at every mo¬ 
ment he can commence another manner of life, which just 
means that he can become another person. But d posteriori^ 
through experience, he finds to his astonishment that he is 
not free, but subjected to necessity; that in spite of all his 
resolutions and reflections he does not change his conduct, 
and that from the beginning of his life to the end of it, he 
must carry out the very character which he himself con¬ 
demns, and as it were, play the part which he ha;, tmder- 
taken, to the very end.* 

1 Introduction to “The Wisdom of Life.’* 

2II, 164. 

• I, 147. 



SCHOPENHAUER 


351 


V. THE WORLD AS EVIL 

But if the world is will, it must be a world of suffering. 
And first, because will itself indicates want, and its grasp is 
always greater than its roach. For eve ry wjsh thaiL -ia-cniia- 
fi ed there re main-ten that are denied. Desire is infinite, ful¬ 
filment is limited—“it is like the alms thrown to a beggar, that 
l^eeps.liim alive today in order that his misery may bfi ^9- 
longed tomorrow. . . . As long as our consciousness is filled 
by our will, so long as we are given up to the throng of de¬ 
sires w'ith their constant hopes and fears, so long as we are 
subject to willing, we can never have lasting happiness or 
geaw.” ^ And fulfilment never satisfies; nothing is so fatal 
to an ideal as its realization. “The satisfied passion oftener. 
leads to unhappiness than to happiness. For its demands 
often conflict so much with the personal welfare of him who 
is concerned that they undermine it.” “ Each individual bears 
within himself a disruptive contradiction; the realized desire 
develops a new desire, and so on endlessly. “At bottom this 
results from the fact that the w’ill must live on itself, for there 
exists nothing besides it, and it is a hungry will.” » 

In every individual the measure of the pain essential to 
him was determined once for all by his nature; a measure 
which could neither remain empty, nor be more than filled. 
... If a great and pressing caic is lifted from our breast, 

. . . another immediately replaces it, the whole material of 
which was already there before, but could not come into con¬ 
sciousness as care because there was no capacity left for it. 

. . . But now that there is room for this it comes forward 
and occupies the throne.* 

Again, life is evil because pain is its basic stimulus and 
reality, and pleasure is merely a negative cessation of pain. 

11, 25S. 

2 in, 868. 

* I, 201. 

♦1, 409. 



THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 


S62 

Aristotle was right: the wise man seeks not pleasure but 
freedom from care and p^. 

All satisfaction, or what is commonly called happiness, is, 
in reality and essence, negative only. ... We are not 
properly conscious of the blessings and advantages we actu¬ 
ally possess, nor do we prize them, but think of them merely 
as a matter of course, for they gratify us only negatively, 
by restraining suffering. Only when we have lost them dt^ 
we become sensible of their value; for the want, the priva¬ 
tion, the sorrow, is the positive thing, communicating itself 
directly to us. . . . What was it that led the Cynics to re¬ 
pudiate pleasure in any form, if it was not the fact that 
pain is, in a greater or less degree, always bound up with 
pleasure.^ . . . The same truth is contained in that fine 
French proverb: le mieux est Vennemi du bien —leave well 
enough alone.^ 

Life is evil because ‘‘as soon as want and suffering permit 
rest to a man, ev/rmi is at once so near that he necessarily re¬ 
quires diversion,” ^—i. e., more suffering. Even if the social¬ 
ist Utopia were attained, innumerable evils would be left, be¬ 
cause some of them—like strife—are essential to life; and if 
every evil were removed, and strife were altogether ended, bore¬ 
dom would become as intolerable as pain. So “life swings like 
a pendulum backward and forward between pain and ennui. 
. . . After man had transformed all pains and torments into 
the conception of hell, there remained nothing for heaven ex¬ 
cept ennuV^^ The more successful we become, the more we 
are bored. “As want is the constant scourge of the people, so 
ennui is the scourge of the fashionable world. In middle-class 
life ennui is represented by the Sundays and want by the week¬ 
days.” ^ 

Life is evil because the higher the organism the greater the 
suffering. The growth of knowledge is no solution. 

11, 411; **Counsel8 and Maxims,*' p. 5. “The better is enemy of the good.*^ 
2 I, 404. 

31, 402. 

4 1, 404. 



SCHOPENHAUER 


353 


For as the phenomenon of will becomes more complete, the 
suffering becomes more and more apparent. In the plant 
there is as yet no sensibility, and therefore no pain. A cer¬ 
tain very small degree of suffering is experienced by the 
lowest species of animal life—Infusoria and Radiata; even 
in insects tlie capacity to feel and suffer is still limited. It 
first appears in a high degree with the complete nervous 
system of vertebrate animals, and always in a higher degree 
the more intelligence develops. Thus, in proportion as 
knowledge attains to distinctness, as consciousness ascends, 
pain also increases, and reaches its highest degree in man. 
And then, again, the more distinctly a man knows—the more 
intelligent he is—the more pain he has; the man who is gifted 
with genius suffers most of all.^ 

He that increaseth knowledge, therefore, increaseth sorrow. 
Even memory and foresight add to human misery; for most 
of our suffering lies in retrospect or anticipation; pain itself 
is brief. How much more suffering is caused by the thought 
of death than by death itself! 

Finally, and above all, life is evil because life is war. Ev¬ 
erywhere in nature we see strife, competition, conflict, and a 
uuicidal alternation of victory and defeat. Every species 
‘‘fights for the matter, space, and time of the others.” 

The young hydra, which grows like a bud out of the old 
one, and afterwards separates itself from it, fights, while it 
is still joined to the old one, for the prey that offers itself, 
so that the one snatches it out of the mouth of the other. 
But the bull-dog ant of Australia affords us the most extra¬ 
ordinary example of this kind; for if it is cut in two, a battle 
begins between the head and the tail. The head seizes the 
tail with its teeth, and the tail defends itself bravely by 
stinging the head; the battle may last for half an hour, un¬ 
til they die or are dragged away by other ants. This con¬ 
test takes place every time the experiment is tried. . . . 
Yunghahn relates that he saw in Java a plain, as far as the 
11, 400. 



854 THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 

eye could reach, entirely covered with skeletons, and took it 
for a battle-field; they were, however, merely the skeletons of 
large turtles, . . . which come this way out of the sea to lay 
their eggs, and are then attacked by wild dogs who wdth their 
united strength lay them on their backs, strip off the small 
shell from the stomach, and devour them alive. But often 
then a tiger pounces upon the dogs. ... For this these 
turtles are born. . . . Thus the will to live everywhere 
preys upon itself, and in different forms is its own nourish¬ 
ment, till finally the human race, because it subdues all the 
others, regards nature as a manufactory for its own use. 
Yet even the human race . . . reveals in itself with most 
terrible distinctness this conflict, this variance of the will 
with itself; and we find homo homini lupus^ 

The total picture of life is almost too painful for contem¬ 
plation; life depends on our not knowing it too well. 

If we should bring clearly to a man’s sight the terrible 
sufferings and miseries to which his life is constantly ex¬ 
posed, he would be seized wdth horror; and if w^e were to 
conduct the confirmed optimist through the hospitals, in¬ 
firmaries, and surgical operating-rooms, through the prisons, 
torture-chambers, and slave kennels, over battle-fields and 
places of execution; if we were to open to him all the dark 
abodes of misery, where it hides itself from the glance of cold 
curiosity, and, finally, allow him to look into the starving 
dungeons of Ugolino, he too would understand at last the 
nature of this ^‘best of all possible worlds.” For whence did 
Dante take the materials of his hell but from our actual 
world And yet he made a very proper hell out of it. But 
when, on the other hand, he came to describe heaven and its 
delights, he had an insurmountable difficulty before him, for 
our w'orld affords no materials at all for this. . . . Every 
epic and dramatic poem can only represent a struggle, an 
effort, a fight for happiness; never enduring and complete 
happiness itself. It conducts its heroes through a thousand 
dangers and difficulties to the goal; as soon as this is reached 
it hastens to let the curtain fall; for now there would remain 
11, 192; III, 112; T, 191. “Man is a wolf to man.” 



SCHOPENHAUER 


355 


nothing for it to do but to sliow that the glittering goal in 
which the hero expected to find happiness had only disap¬ 
pointed him, and that after its attainment he was no better 
off than before.^ 

We are unhappy married, and unmarried we are unhappy. 
We are unhappy when alone, and unhappy in society: we are 
like hedge-hogs clustering together for warmth, uncomfortable 
when too closely packed, and yet miserable when kept apart. 
It is all very funny; and ‘^the life of every individual, if we 
survey it as a whole, . . . and only lay stress on its most 
significant features, is really always a tragedy; but gone 
through in detail it has the character of a comedy.’^ - Think 
of it: 

At the age of five years to enter a spinning-cotton or 
other factory, and from that time forth to sit there daily, 
first ten, then twelve, and ultimatelv fourteen hours, per¬ 
forming the same mechanical labor, is to purchase dearly 
the satisfaction of drawing breath. But this is the fate of 
millions, and that of millions more is analogous to it. . . . 
Again, under the firm crust of the j^lanet dwell powerful 
forces of nature, which, as soon as some accident affords 
them free play, must necessarily destroy the crust, with 
everything living upon it, as has already taken place at 
least three times upon our planet, and will probably take 
place oftener still. The earthquake of Lisbon, the earth¬ 
quake of Haiti, the destruction of Pompeii, are only small 
playful hints of what is possible.'"^ 

In the face of ail this, “optimism m a bitter mockery of 
men’s woes”;^ and “we cannot ascribe to the Theodicy"^ of 
Leibnitz, “as a methodical and broad unfolding of optimism, 
any other merit than this, that it gave occasion later for the 
immortal Candide of the great Voltaire; whereby Leibnitz’ oft- 
?epeated and lame excuse for the evil of the world—^that the 

1 1, 419, 4ia 
a I, 415. 

«III, 889, 895. 

« L 420. 



THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 


856 

bad sometimes brings about the good—received a confirmation 
which was unexpected by him.” ^ In brief, ‘Hhe nature of 
life throughout presents itself to us as intended and calcu¬ 
lated to awaken the conviction that nothing at all is worth 
our striving, our efforts and struggles; tliat all good things 
are vanity, the world in all its ends bankrupt, and life a busi¬ 
ness which does not cover expenses.” ^ 

To be happy, one must be as ignorant as youth. Youth 
thinks that willing and striving arc joys; it has not yet dis¬ 
covered the weary insatiableness of desire, and the fruitlessness 
of fulfilment; it does not yet see the incvitableness of defeat. 

The cheerfulness and vivacity of youth arc partly due to 
the fact that when we are ascending the hill of life, death is 
not visible; it lies down at the bottom of the other side. . . • 
Towards the close of life, every day wq live gives us the same 
kind of sensation as the criminal experiences at every step 
on his way to the gallows. . . . To see how short life is, one 
must have lived long. . . . Up to our thirty-sixth year we 
may be compared, in respect to the way in which we use our 
vital energy, to people who live on the interest of their 
money; what they spend today they have again tomorrow. 
But from the age of thirty-six onward, our position is like 
that of the investor who begins to entrencli on his capital. 
... It is the dread of this calamity that makes love of pos¬ 
session increase with age. ... So far from youth being the 
happiest period of life, there is much more truth in the re¬ 
mark made by Plato, at the beginning of the Republic, that 
the prize should rather be given to old age, because then at 
last a man is freed from the animal passion which has hith¬ 
erto never ceased to disquiet him. ... Yet it should not 
be forgotten that, when this passion is extinguished, the true 
kernel of life is gone, and nothing remains but the hollow 
shell; or, from another point of view, life then becomes like 
a comedy which, begun by real actors, is continued and 
brought to an end by automata dressed in their clothes.® 

1 III, 394. 

2 III, 883. 

2 Counsels and Maxims,’* 124-189. 



SCHOPENHAUER 


367 


At the end, we meet death. Just as experience begins to co¬ 
ordinate itself into wisdom, brain and body begin to decay. 
‘‘Everything lingers for but a moment, and hastens on to 
death.” ^ And if death bides its time it is but playing with us 
as a cat with a helpless mouse. “It is clear that as our walk¬ 
ing is admittedly nothing but a constantly-prevented falling, 
so the life of our bodies is nothing but a constantly-prevented 
dying, an ever-postponed death.” - “Among the magnificent 
ornaments and apparel of Eastern despots there is always a 
costly vial of poison.” ^ The pliilosoj)liy of the East under¬ 
stands the omnipresence of death, and gives to its students 
that calm aspect and dignified slowness of carriage, which 
comes of a consciousness of the brevity of personal existence. 
The fear of death is the beginring of philosophy, and the final 
cause of religion. The average man cannot reconcile himself 
to death; therefore he makes innumerable philosophies and 
theologies; the prevalence of a belief in immortality is a token 
of the awful fear of death. 

Just as theology is a refuge from death, so insanity is a 
refuge from pain. “Madness comes as a way to avoid the 
memory of suffering”; ^ it is a saving break in the thread of 
consciousness; we can survive certain experiences or fears only 
by forgetting them. 

How unwillingly we think of things which powerfully in¬ 
jure our interests, wound our pride, or interfere with our 
wishes; wdth what difficulty do we determine to lay such 
things before our intellects for careful and serious investi¬ 
gation. ... In that resistance of the will to allowing w’hat 
is contrary to it to come under the examination of the in¬ 
tellect lies the place at which madness can break in upon the 
mind. ... If the resistance of the will against the appre¬ 
hension of some knowledge reaches such a degree that that 
operation is not performed in its entirety, then certain ele- 

III, 454; III, 269. 

2 **Counsels and Maxims,’* 28, note. 

•I, 119. 

41, 250. 



358 


THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 


ments or circumstances become for the intellect completely 
suppressed, because the will cannot endure the sight of them; 
and then, for the sake of the necessary connections, the 
gaps that thus arise are filled up at pleasure; thus madness 
appears. For the intellect has given up its nature to please 
the will; the man now imagines what does not exist. Yet 
the madness which has thus arisen is the lethe of unendurable 
suffering; it was the last remedy of harassed nature, i. e., 
of the will.^ 

The final refuge is suicide. Here at last, strange to say, 
thought and imagination conquer instinct. Diogenes is said 
to have put an end to himself by refusing to breathe;—what 
a victory over the will to live! But this triumph is merely 
individual; the will continues in the species. Life laughs at 
suicide, and smiles at death; for every deliberate death there 
are thousands of indeliberate births. ^‘Suicide, the wilful de¬ 
struction of the single phenomenal existence, is a vain and 
foolish act, for the thing-in-itself—the species, and life, and 
will in general—remains unaffected by it, even as the rainbow 
endures however fast the drops which support it for the mo¬ 
ment may chance to fall.’’ ^ Misery and strife continue after 
the death of the individual, and must continue, so long as will 
is dominant in man. There can be no victory over the ills of 
life until the will has been utterly subordinated to knowledge 
and intelligence. 


VI. THE WISDOM OF LIFE 

1. Philosophy 

Consider, first, the absurdity of the desire for material 
goods. Fools believe that if they can only achieve wealth, 
their wills can be completely gratified; a man of means is 
supposed to be a man with means for the fulfilment of every 
desire. ‘‘People are often reproached for wishing for money 
above ad things, and for loving it more than anything else; 

1 III, 167-0. A source of Freud. 

'I, 51.^ 



SCHOPENHAUER 


359 


but it is natural and even inevitable for people to love that 
which, like an unwearied Proteus, is alwaj^s ready to turn it¬ 
self into whatever object their wandering wislies or their mani¬ 
fold desires may fix upon. Everything else can satisfy only 
one wish; money alone is absolutely good, . . . because it is 
the abstract satisfaction of every wish.'’ ^ Nevertheless, a life 
devoted to the acquisition of wealth is useless unless we know 
how to turn it into joy; and this is an art that requires culture 
and wisdom. A succession of sensual pursuits never satisfies 
for long; one must understand the ends of life as well as the 
art of acquiring means. ‘‘Men are a thousand times more 
intent on becoming rich than on acquiring culture, though it 
is quite certain that what a man is contributes more to his 
happiness than what he has'^ - “A man who has no mental 
needs is called a Philistine”;he does not know what to do 
with his leisure —difficilis in otio quits; ^ he searches greedily 
from place to place for new sensations; and at last he is con¬ 
quered by that nemesis of the idle rich or the reckless volup¬ 
tuary— ennui.^ 

Not wealth but wisdom is the Way. “Man is at once im- 
-petuous striving of will (whose focus lies in the reproductive 
•ystern), and eternal, free, serene subject of pure knowledge 
(of which the focus is the brain).”® jVtarvelous to say, 
knowledge, though born of the will, may yet master the will. 
The possibility of the independence of knowledge first appears 
in the indifferent way in wliich the intellect occasionally re¬ 
sponds to the dictates of desire. “Sometimes the intellect re¬ 
fuses to obey the will: e. g., when we try in vain to fix our 
minds upon something, or when we call in vain upon the mem¬ 
ory for something that was entrusted to it. The anger of the 
will against the intellect on such occasions makes its relation 

1 Essays, “Wisdom of Life,” p. 47. 

2 Ibid,, p. 11. 

« P. 41. 

^ P. 89. “Quiet in leisure is difficult.” 

• P. 22. 

•I. 262. 



860 


THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 


to it, and tlie difference of the two, very plain. Indeed, vexed 
by this anger, the intellect sometimes officiously brings what 
was asked of it hours afterward, or even the following morn¬ 
ing, quite unexpectedly and unseasonably.” ^ From this im¬ 
perfect subservience the intellect may pass to domination. 
“In accordance with previous reflection, or a recognized neces ¬ 
sity, a man suffers, or accomplishes in cold blood, what is of 
the utmost, and often terrible, importance to him: suicide, 
execution, the duel, enterprises of every kind fraught with 
danger to life; and in general, things against which his whole 
animal nature rebels. Under such circumstances we see to 
what an extent reason has mastered the animal nature.” * 

This power of the intellect over the will permits of deliber¬ 
ate development; desire can be moderated or quieted by knowl¬ 
edge ; and above all by a determinist philosophy which 
recognizes everything as the inevitable result of its antece¬ 
dents. “Of ten things that annoy us, nine would not be able 
to do so if we understood them thoroughly in their causes, 
and therefore knew their necessity and true nature. . . . 
For what bridle and bit are to an unmanageable horse, the in¬ 
tellect is for the will in man.” ^ “It is witli inward as with 
outward necessity: nothing reconciles us so thoroughly as dis¬ 
tinct knowledge.” * The more we know of our passions, the 
less they control us; and “nothing will protect us from ex¬ 
ternal compulsion so much as the control of ourselves.” ® Si 
vis tibi omnia suhjiccre, subjice te ratiotii'' The ^eatest of 
all wonders is not the conqueror of the world, but the subduer 
of himself. 

So philosophy purifies the will. But philosophy is to be 

1II, 439. 

a I, 112. 

«II, 426. 

I, 396. 

» “Counsels and Maxims,” p. 51. 

« “If you would subject kll things to yourself, subject yourself to reason.'* 
—Beneea. 



SCIIOPEN HA U ER 361 

understood as experience and thought, not as mere reading or 
passive study. 

The constant streaming m of the tlioughts of others must 
confine and suppress our own; and indeed in tlie long run 
paralyze the power of thought. . . . The inclination of 
most scholars is a kind of fuga tacai ^ fioin the poverty of 
their own minds, which forcibly draws in tlie thoughts of 
others. ... It is dangerous to read about a subject before 
we have thought about it ourselves. . . . When \\c read, an¬ 
other person thinks for us; we merely repeat his mental 
process. ... So it comes about that if anyone spends al¬ 
most the whole day in reading, . . . he gradually loses the 
capacity for thinking. . . . Experience of the world may be 
lOoked upon as a kind of text, to which reflection and knowl¬ 
edge form the commentary. Where there is a great deal of 
reflection and intellectual knowledge, and very little experi¬ 
ence, the result is like those books which have on each page 
two lines of text to forty lines of commentary.“ 

The first counsel, then, is Life before books; and the second 
is, Text before commentary. Read the creators rather than 
the expositors and the critics. ‘‘Only from the autliors them¬ 
selves can we receive philoso]diic thouglits: therefore wdioever 
feels himself drawn to philosophy must seek out its immortal 
teachers in the still sanctuary of their ow n works.’’ ^ One 
work of genius is worth a thousand commentaries. 

Within these limitations, the pursuit of culture, even 
through books, is valuable, because our hap])iness depends on 
what we have in our heads rather tliaii on what we have in 
our pockets. Elven fame is folly; “other people’s heads are 
a wretched place to be the home of a man’s true happiness.” * 

What one human being can be to another is not a very 
great deal; in the end everyone stands alone; and the im- 

1 Vacuum suction. 

2 II, 254; Essays, “Books and Reading”; “Counsels and Maxims,” p. 21. 

«I, xxvii. 

4 “Wisdom of Life,” p. 117. 




362 


THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 


poi^tant thing is, who it is that stands alone. . . . The 
happiness which we receive from ourselves is greater than 
that which we obtain from our surroundings. . . . The 
world in which a man lives shapes itself chiefly by the way 
in which he looks at it. . . . Since everything which exists 
or happens for a man exists only in his consciousness, and 
happens for him alone, the most essential thing for a man 
is the constitution of his consciousness. . . . Therefore it 
is with great truth that Aristotle says, “To be happy means 
to be self-sufficient.” ^ 

The way out of the evil of endless willing is the intelligent 
contemplation of life, and converse with the achievements of 
the great of all times and countries; it is only for such loving 
minds that these grer.t ones have lived. ^‘Unselfish intellect 
rises like a perfume above the faults and follies of the world 
of Will.” ^ Most men never rise above viewing things as ob¬ 
jects of desire—hence their misery; but to see things purely 
as objects of understanding is to rise to freedom. 

When some external cause or inward disposition lifts us 
suddenly out of the endless stream of willing, and delivers 
knowledge out of the slavery of the will, the attention is no 
longer directed to the motives of willing, but comprehends 
things free from their relation to the will, and thus ob- 
sen^es them without personal interest, without subjectivity, 
purely objectively,—gives itself entirely up to them so far 
as they are ideas, but not in so far as they are motives. 
Then all at once the peace which we were always seeking, 
but which always fled from us on the former path of the de¬ 
sires, comes to us of its owm accord, and it is well with us. 

It is the painless state which Epicurus prized as the highest 
good and as the state of the gods; for we arc for the moment 
set free from the miserable striving of the will; we keep the 
Sabbath of the penal servitude of willing; the wheel of Ixion 
stands still.* 

ilbid., pp. 27, 4r-9. 

2 “Wisdom of Life,” 34, 109. 

81, 254. Ixion, according to classical mythology, tried to win Juno from 
Jvpiter, and was punished by being bound to a forever-revolvins: wheel. 



SCHOPENHAUER 


363 


2. Genius 

Genius is the highest form of this will-less knowledge. The 
lowest forms of life arc entirely made up of will, without 
knowledge; man in general is mostl 3 ' will and little knowledge; 
geAius is mostly knowledge and little will. “Genius consists 
in this, that the knowing faculty has received a considerably 
greater development than the service of the wdll demands.’^ ^ 
This involves some passage of force out of reproductive into 
intellectual activity. “The fundamental condition of genius 
is an abnormal predominance of sensibility and irritability 
over reproductive power.’’ ^ Hence tlie enmity between genius 
and woman, who represents reproduction and the subjugation 
of the intellect to the will to live and make live. “Women may 
have great talent, but no genius, for they always remain sub¬ 
jective” ; ^ with them everything is personal, and is viewed as 
A means to personal ends. On the other hand, 

genius is simply the completest objectivity,—i. e., the objec¬ 
tive tendency of the mind. . . . Genius is tlie power of 
leaving one’s owm interests, wishes and aims entirely out of 
sight, of entirely renouncing one’s own personality for 
a time, so as to remain pure knowing subject, clear vision of 
the world. . . . Tlierefore the expression of genius in a face 
consists in this, that in it a decided predominance of kno^:- 
edge over will is visible. In ordinary countenances there is 
a predominant expression of \^il], and we see that knowl¬ 
edge only comes into activity under the impulse of the will, 
and is directed merely by motives of personal interest and 
advantage.^ 

Freed from will, the intellect can see the object as it is; 
^^genius holds up to us the magic glass in which all that is 
essential and significant appears to us collected and placed 
in the clearest light, and what is accidental and foreign is left 

nil, 139. 

’Ill, 159. 

® Ibid. 

♦I, 240, 248. 



364 


THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 


out.” ^ Tliouglit pierces through passion as sunlight pours 
through a cloud, and reveals the heart of things; it goes be¬ 
hind the individual and particular to the ‘TIatonic Idea” 
or universal essence of which it is a form—just as the painter 
sees, in the person wliom lie paints, not merely the individual 
character and feature, but some universal quality and perma¬ 
nent reality for whose unveiling the individual is only a symbol 
and a means. The secret of genius, then, lies in the clear and 
impartial perception of the objective, the essential, and the 
universal. 

It is this removal of the personal equation which leaves the 
genius so maladapted in the world of will-ful, practical, per¬ 
sonal activity. By seeing so far he does not see what is near; 
he is imprudent and ‘‘queer”; and w hile his vision is hitched to 
a star he falls into a well. Hence, partly, J;he unsociability of 
the genius; he is thinking of the fundamental, the universal, 
the eternal; others are thinking of the temporary, the specific, 
the immediate; his mind and theirs have no common ground, 
and never meet. “As a rule, a man is sociable just in the de¬ 
gree in which he is intellectually poor and generally vulgar.” ^ 
The man of genius has his compensations, and does not need 
company so much as people who live in perpetual dependence 
on what is outside them. “The pleasure which he receives 
from all beauty, the consolation which art affords, the enthusi¬ 
asm of the artist, . . . enable him to forget the cares of life,” 
and “repay him for the suffering that increases in propor¬ 
tion to the clearness of consciousness, and for his desert lone¬ 
liness among a different race of men.” ^ 

The result, however, is that the genius is forced into isola¬ 
tion, and sometimes into madness; the extreme sensitiveness 
which brings him pain along with imagination and intuition, 
combines with solitude and maladaptation to break the bonds 
that hold the mind to reality. Aristotle was right again: 

11, S21. 

a “Wisdom of Life,” p. 24. An apologia pro vita tua, 

• I, 345. 



SCHOPENHAUER 


365 


•‘Men distinguished in philosoph}^ politics, poetry or art ap¬ 
pear to be all of a melancholy temperament.” ^ The direct 
connection of madness and genius “is established by tlic biog¬ 
raphies of great men, such as Rousseau, Byron, Alfieri, etc.” ^ 
“By a diligent search in lunatic asylums, I have found individ¬ 
ual cases of patients who were unquestionably endowed with 
great talents, and whose genius distinctly appeared through 
their madness.” ^ 

Yet in these semi-madmen, these geniuses, lies the true 
aristocracy of mankind. “With regard to the intellect, nature 
is highly aristocratic. The distinctions which it has estab¬ 
lished are greater than those which are made in any country 
by birth, rank, wealth, or caste.” ^ Nature gives genius 
only to a few because such a temperament would be a hin¬ 
drance in the normal pursuits of life, which require con¬ 
centration on the specific and immediate. “Nature really in¬ 
tended even learned men to be tillers of the soil; indeed, 
professors of philosophy should be estimated according to this 
standard; and then their achievements will be found to com€ 
up to all fair expectations.” ^ 


3. Art 

This deliverance of knowledge from servitude to the will, 
this forgetting of the individual self and its material interest, 
this elevation of the mind to the will-less contemplation of 
truth, is the function of art. The object of science is the 
universal that contains many particulars; the object of art 
is the particular that contains a universal. “Even the por¬ 
trait ought to be, as Winckelmann says, the ideal of the in- 

1 In “Wisdom of Life,” p. 19. 

2 The source of Loinbroso—who adds Schopenhauer to the list. 

» I, 247. 

* II, 342. 

»III, 20. The professor of philosophy might avenge himself by pointing 
out that by nature we seem to be hunters rather than tillers; that agri¬ 
culture is a human invention, not a natural instinct. 



d66 


THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 


dividual.” ^ In painting animals the most characteristic is 
accounted the most beautiful, because it best reveals the spe¬ 
cies. A work of art is successful, then, in proportion as it 
suggests the Platonic Idea, or universal, of the group to which 
the represented object belongs. The portrait of a man must 
aim, therefore, not at photographic fidelity, but at exposing, 
as far as possible, through one figure, some essential or uni¬ 
versal quality of man.” “ Art is greater than science because 
the latter proceeds by laborious accumulation and cautious 
reasoning, while the former reaches its goal at once by intui¬ 
tion and presentation; science can get along with talent, but 
art requires genius. 

Our pleasure in nature, as in poetry or painting, is derived 
from contemplation of the object without admixture of per¬ 
sonal will. To the artist the Rhine is a varied series of be¬ 
witching views, stirring the senses and the imagination with 
suggestions of beauty; but the traveler who is bent on his per¬ 
sonal affairs “will see the Rhine and its banks only as a line, 
and the bridges only as lines cutting the first line.” ® The 
artist so frees himself from personal concerns that “to artistic 
perception it is all one whether we see the sunset from a prison 
or from a palace.” ■* “It is this blessedness of will-less percep¬ 
tion which casts an enchanting glamour over the past and the 
distant, and presents them to us in so fair a light.” ® Even 
hostile objects, when we contemplate them without excitation 
of the will, and without immediate danger, become sublime. 
Similarly, tragedy may take an esthetic value, by delivering 
us from the strife of the individual will, and enabling us to 
see our suffering in a larger view. Art alleviates the ills of 
life by showing us the eternal and universal behind the tran- 

1 I, 290. 

2 So in literature, character-portrayal rises to greatness—other things equal 
—In proportion as the clearly-delineated individual represents also a uni¬ 
versal type, like Faust and Marguerite or Quixote and Sancho Panza, 

8 III, 145. 

41, 265. 

»I, 256. 



SCHOPENHAUER 


367 

Tiitory and the individual. Spinoza was riglit: ^Mn so far as 
the mind sees things in their eternal aspect it particii^atcs in 
eternity.” ^ 

This power of the arts to elevate us above the strife of wills 
is possessed above all by music.- “Music is by no means like 
the other arts, the copy of the Ideas” or essences of things, but 
it is “the copy of the will itself”; it shows us the eternally mov¬ 
ing, striving, wandering will, always at last leturning to itself 
to begin its striving anew. “This is why the effect of music 
is more powerful and penetrating than the other arts, for 
they speak only of shadow^s, while it speaks of the things it¬ 
self.” ® It differs too from the other arts because it affects 
our feelings directly,^ and not through the medium of ideas; 
it speaks to something subtler than the intellect. What sym¬ 
metry is to the plastic arts, rhythm is to music; hence music 
and architecture are antipodal; architecture, as Goethe said> 
is frozen music; and symmetry is rhythm standing still. 

4. Religion 

It dawned upon Schopenhauer’s maturity that his theory of 
art—as the withdrawal of the w ill, and the contemplation of 
the eternal and universal—w^as also a theory of religion In 
youth he had received very little religious training; and his 
temper did not incline him to respect the ecclesiastical organ¬ 
izations of his time. He despised tlieologians: “As ultima 
ratio,'' or the final argument, “of theologians we find among 
many nations the stake”; "' and he described religion as “the 

11, 230. Cf. Goethe: “There is no better dclivcrnnce from the world'* of 
strife “tJian through art.”— Elective A^nities, New V ork, 1902, p. 336. 

2 “Schopenhauer was the first to recognize and designate with philosophic 
clearness the position of music with reference to the other fine arts.”— 
Wagner, Beethoven, Boston, 1872, p. 23. 

8 I, 333. 

“^Hanslick {The Beautiful in J^fusic, London, 1891, p. 23) objects to this, 
and argues that music affects only the imagination directly. Strictly, of 
course, it affects only the senses directly, 

»II, 365. 



S68 


THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 


metaphysics of the masses.” ^ But in later years he begar 
to see a profound significance in certain religious practices and 
dogmas. “The controversy which is so persevcringly carried 
on in our own day between supernaturalists and rationalists 
rests on tlie failure to recognize the allegorical nature of all 
religion.” “ Christianity, for example, is a profound philos¬ 
ophy of pessimism; “the doctrine of original sin (assertion of 
the will) and of salvation (denial of the will) is the great 
truth which constitutes the essence of Christianity.” ® Fast¬ 
ing is a remarkable expedient for weakening those desires that 
lead never to happiness but either to disillusionment or to 
further desire. “The power by virtue of which Christianity 
was able to overcome first Judaism, and then the heathenism 
of Greece and Rome, lies solely in its pessimism, in the confes¬ 
sion that our state is both exceedingly wretched and sinful, 
while Judaism and heathenism were both optimistic”:^ they 
thought of religion as a bribe to the heavenly powers for aid 
tow^ards earthly success; Christianity thought of religion as 
a deterrent from the useless quest of earthly happiness. In 
the midst of worldly luxury and powder it lias held up the ideal 
of the saint, the Fool in Christ, w^ho refuses to fight, and ab¬ 
solutely overcomes the individual will.® 

Buddhism is profounder than Christianity, because it makes 
the destruction of the will the entirety of religion, and 
preaches Nirvana as the goal of all personal development. 
The Hindus were deeper than the thinkers of Europe, because 
their interpretation of the world w’as internal and intuitive, 
not external and intellectual; the intellect divides everything, 
intuition unites everything; the Hindus saw that the “I” is a 
delusion; that the individual is merely phenomenal, and that 
the only reality is the Infinite One—“That art thou.” “Who¬ 
ever is able to say this to himself, with regard to every being 

^Eaays, “Religion,** p. 2. 

2 II. 369. 

«I, 524. 

4II, 872. 

S I, 493. 



SCIIOPEXHAUER 


369 


with whom he comes in contact,”—whoever is clear-eyed and 
clear-souled enough to see that we are all members of one 
organism, all of us little currents in an ocean of will,—he 
“is certain of all virtue and blessedness, and is on the direct 
road to salvation.” ‘ Scho{)cnhaucr docs not think that Chris¬ 
tianity will ever displace Buddhism in tlic East; “it is just the 
same as if we fired a bullet against a cliff.” ^ Rather, In¬ 
dian philosophy streams into Pmrope, and will jjrofoundly al¬ 
ter our knowledge and our thought. “The influence of the 
Sanskrit literature will penetrate not less deeply than did 
the revival of Greek letters in the fifteenth century.” ' 

The ultimate w'i.sdom, then, is Nirvana: to reduce one’s self 
to a minimum of desire and will. The world-will is stronger 
than ours; let us yield at once. “The less the will is excited, 
the less we suffer.” ^ The great masterpieces of painting have 
always represented countenances in which “we see the expres¬ 
sion of the completest knowledge, which is not directed to par¬ 
ticular things, but has . . . become the (juicter of all wdll.” ® 
“That peace which is above all reason, that perfect calm of 
the spirit, that deep rest, that inviolable confidence and seren¬ 
ity, ... as Raphael and Correggio have represented it, is 
an entire and certain gospel; only knowledge remains, the will 
has vanished.” ® 


VII. THE WISDOM OF DEATH 

And yet, something more is needed. By Nirvana the in¬ 
dividual achieves the peace of will-lessness, and finds salvation; 
but after the individual? Life laughs at the death of the in¬ 
dividual ; it will survive him in his offspring, or in the offspring 
of others; even if his little stream of life runs dry there arc 

U, 483. 

2 I, 460. 

* I, xiii. Perhaps we are witnessing a fulfillment of this prophecy in the 
growth of theosophy and similar faiths. 

■* “Counsels and Maxims,” p. 19. 

»I, 800. 

«531. 



S70 


THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 


a thousand other streams that grow broader and deeper 
with every generation. How can Man be saved? Is there a 
Nirvana for the race as well as for the individual? 

Obviously, the only final and radical conquest of the will 
must lie in stopping up the source of life—the will to repro¬ 
duce. ‘^The satisfaction of the reproductive impulse is ut¬ 
terly and intrinsically reprehensible because it is the strongest 
affirmation of the lust for life.” ^ What crime have these chil¬ 
dren committed that they should be born? 

If, now, we contemplate the turmoil of life, wc behold all 
occupied with its want and misery, straining all their powers 
to satisfy its infinite needs and to ward off its multifarious 
sorrows, yet without daring to hope for anything else than 
simply the preservation of this tormented existence for a 
short span of time. In between, however, and in the midst 
of this tumult, we see the glance of two lovers meet long¬ 
ingly; yet why so secretly, fearfully, and stealthily? Be¬ 
cause these lovers are the traitors who seek to perpetuate the 
whole want and drudgery which would otherwise speedily 
reach an end; . . . here lies the profound reason for the 
shame connected with the process of generation.^ 

It is w’oman that is the culprit here; for wdien knowledge 
has reached to will-lessness, her thoughtless charms allure man 
again into reproduction. Youth has not intelligence enough 
to see how brief these charms must be; and wdien the intelli¬ 
gence comes, it is too late. 

With young girls Nature seems to have had in view what, 
in the language of the drama, is called a striking effect; as 
for a few years she dowers them with a wealth of beauty and 
is lavish in her gift of charm, at the expense of all the rest of 
their lives; so that during those years they may capture the 
fancy of some man to such a degree that he is hurried away 
into undertaking the honorable care of them ... as long as 
they live—a step for which there would not seem to be any 

1 In Wallace, p. 29. 

»III, 374; I, 423. 



SCHOPENHAUER 


371 


sufficient warrant if only reason directed man’s thoughts. 

. . . Here, as elsewhere, Nature ])roceeds with her usual 
economy; for just as the female ant, after fecundation, lo^es 
her wings, which arc then superfluous, nay, actually a dan¬ 
ger to the business of breeding; so, after giving birth to one 
or two children, a woman generally losv^s her beauty; prob¬ 
ably, indeed, for similar reasons.^ 

Young men ought to reflect that ‘Mf the object which in¬ 
spires them today to write madrigals and sonnets had been 
born eighteen years earlier, it would scarcely have won a 
glance from them.’’ - After all, men are much more beautiful 
in body than w^omen. 

It is only a man whose intellect is clouded by his sexual im¬ 
pulse that could give the iian.e of the fair sex to that under¬ 
sized, narrow-shouldered, broad-hipped, and short-legged 
race; for the whole beaiit 3 ’ of the sex is bound up witli this 
impulse. Instead of calling them beautiful there would be 
more w^arrant for describing women as the unesthetic sex. 
Neither for music, nor for poetry’, nor for the fine arts, have^ 
they reall\" and truly any sense of susceptibilitv; it is a mere 
mockery if the\" make a pretense of it in order to assist their 
endeavor to please. . . . They are incapable of taking a 
purely objective interest in anvthing. . . . The most distin¬ 
guished intellects among the Avhole sex have never manag« 1 
to produce a single achievement in the fine arts that is reall}^ 
genuine and original; or given to the world any work of 
permanent value in any sphere.^ 

This veneration of women is a product of Christianity and 
of German sentimentality; and it is in turn a cause of that 
Romantic movement wdiicli exalts feeling, instinct and will 
above the intellect.^ The Asiatics know' better, and frankly 
recognize the inferiority of w'omaii. ‘‘When the laws gave 
women equal rights with men, they ought also to have endowed 

1 Essay on Women, p. 73. 

-'5 III, 339. 

a Essay on Women, p. 79. 

^III, 209-14. 



872 THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 

them with masculine intellects.” ^ Asia again shows a finer 
honesty than ours in its marriage institutions; it accepts as 
normal and legal the custom of polygamy, which, though so 
widely practiced among us, is covered with the fig-leaf of a 
phrase. “Where are there any real monogamists.^”^'—And 
how absurd it is to give property-rights to women! “All 
women are, with rare exceptions, inclined to extravagance,” 
because they live only in the present, and their chief out-door 
sport is shopping. “Women think that it is men’s business to 
earn money, and theirs to spend it”; ^ this is their conception 
of the division of labor. “I am therefore of opinion that 
women should never be allowed altogether to manage their own 
concerns, but should always stand under actual male supervi¬ 
sion, be it of father, of husband, of son, or of the state—as is 
the case in Hindostan; and that consequently they should 
never be given full power to dispose of any property they have 
not themselves acquired.” ^ It was probably tlie luxury ano 
extravagance of the women of Louis XIII’s court that brouglil 
on the general corruption of government which culminated in 
the French Revolution.^ 

The less we have to do with women, then, the better. They 
are not even a “necessary evil”;® life is safer and smoother 
without them. Let men recognize the snare that lies in wom¬ 
en’s beauty, and the absurd comedy of reproduction will end. 
The development of intelligence will weaken or frustrate the 
will to reproduce, and will thereby at last achieve the extinc¬ 
tion of the race. Nothing could form a finer denouement 
to the insane tragedy of the restless will;—wdiy should the 
curtain that has just fallen upon defeat and death always rise 
again upon a new life, a new struggle, and a new defeat? 

1 Essay on Women, p. 84. 

2 Ibid., p. S(j. 

^Ibid., p. 75. 

♦ In Wallace, p. 80. An echo of Schopenhauer’s dissatisfaction with his 
mother’s extravagance. 

5 Essay on Women, p. 89. 

6 Carlyle’s phrase. 



SCHOPENHAUER 


373 


How long shall we be lured into this much-ado-about-nothing, 
this endless pain that leads only to a painful end? When shall 
we have the courage to fling defiance into the face of the Will, 
—to tell it that the loveliness of life is a lie, and that the 
greatest boon of all is death? 

VIII. CRITICISM 

The natural response to such ])liilosophy Is a medical di¬ 
agnosis, of the age and of the man. 

Let us realize again that we have here a phenomenon akin 
to that which, in the days after Alexander and after Caesar, 
brought first to Greece and then to Rome a flood of Oriental 
faiths and attitudes. It is characteristic of the East to see 
the external Will in nature as so much more powerful than the 
will in man, and to come readily to a doctrine of resignation 
and despair. As the decay of Greece brought the pallor of 
Stoicism and the hectic flush of Epicureanism upon the cheeks 
of Hellas, so the chaos of the Napoleonic wars brought into 
the soul of E^uropc that plaintive weariness which made Scho¬ 
penhauer its philosophic voice. Europe had a terrible head¬ 
ache in 1815.^ 

The personal diagnosis can take its lead from Schopen¬ 
hauer’s admission that a man’s happiness depends on what he 
is, rather than on external circumstance. Pessimism is an in¬ 
dictment of tlie pessimist. Given a diseased constitution and 
a neurotic mind, a life of empty leisure and gloomy ennui, 
and there emerges the ])roper physiology for Schopenhauer's 
philosojihy. One must have leisure to be a pessimist; an ac¬ 
tive life almost always brings good spirits in bod 3 " and in mind. 
Schopenhauer admires the serenity that comes of modest aims 
and a steady life,- but he could hardly speak of these from 
personal experience. DifficiUs in otio quies, truly; he had 
money enough for continuous leisure, and he found continu- 

^ Compare the apathy and despondency of Europe today (1921), and the 
popularity of such books as Spcnglcr’s Downfall of the Western World, 

2 I, 422. 



874 THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 

ous leisure to be more intolerable than continuous work. Per¬ 
haps the tendency of pliilosophers toward melancholy is due 
to the unnaturalness of sedentary occupations; too often an 
attack upon life is merely a sjnnptom of the lost art of ex^ 
cretion. 

Nirvana is the ideal of a listless man, a Childe Harold or 
a Rene, who has begun by desiring too much, by staking all 
on one passion, and then, having lost, spends the remainder 
of his life in a passionless and petulant boredom. If intellect 
arises as the servant of will, it is quite likely that the particu¬ 
lar product of the intellect which we know as the philosophy of 
Schopenhauer was the cover and apology of a diseased and 
indolent will. And no doubt his early experiences with women 
and with men developed an abnormal suspiciousness and sensi¬ 
tivity, as it did in Stendhal and Flaubert and Nietzsche. He 
became cynical and solitary. He writes: friend in need 

is not a friend indeed; he is merely a borrower”; ^ and, ‘‘Do not 
tell a friend anything that you would conceal from an en¬ 
emy.” ^ He advises a quiet, monotonous, hermit life; he fears 
society, and has no sense of the values or joys of human as¬ 
sociation.^ Rut happiness dies when it is not shared. 

There is, of course, a large element of egotism in pessimism: 
the w’orld is not good enough for us, and we turn up our 
philosophic noses to it. But this is to forget Spinoza’s les¬ 
son, that our terms of moral censure and approbation are 
merely human judgments, mostly irrelevant when applied to 
the cosmos as a whole. Perhaps our supercilious disgust with 
existence is a cover for a secret disgust with ourselves: we 
have botched and bungled our lives, and we cast the blame 
upon the “environment,” or the “world,” which have no 
tongues to utter a defense. The mature man accepts tlie nat¬ 
ural limitations of life; he does not expect Providence to be 
prejudiced in his favor; he does not ask for loaded dice with 

1 “Counsels and Maxims,” p. 8d. 

2 Ibid., p. 96. 

* Ibid., pp. 24, 37. 



SCHOPENHAUER 


375 


which to play the game of life. He hnows, with Carlyle, that 
there is no sense in vilifying the sun because it will not light 
our cigars. And perhaps, if we are clever enough to lielp 
it, the sun will do even that; and this vast neutral cosmos 
may turn out to be a jilcasant place enough if we l)ring a little 
sunshine of our own to help it oul. In truth the world is 
neither witli us nor against us; it ijut raw material in our 
hands, and can be lieaven or liell according to what we are. 

Part of the cause of pessimism, in Schopenhauer and liis 
contemporaries, laj^ in their rtmiantic attitudes and expecta¬ 
tions. Youth expects too much of tlic world; jiessimism is 
the morning after optimism, just as 1S15 had to pay for 1789- 
The romantic exaltation and lilieration of feeling, instinct and 
will, and the romantic contempt for intellect, restraint, and 
order, brought their natural ])enalties: for ‘Hhe world,” as 
Horace Walpole said, “is a comedy for those who think, but 
a tragedy for tho.se who feel.” '“‘Perliaps no movement has 
been so prolific of melancholy as emotional romantici.sni. . . . 
When the romanticist discovers tliat liis ideal of happiness 
works out into actual unhappiness, he does not blame his ideal. 
He simply assumes that the world is unworthy of a being so 
exquisitely organized as himself.” ' How could a capricious 
universe ever satisfy a capricious soiil.^ 

The spectacle of Napoleoirs rise to empire, Rousseau’s 
denunciation—and Kant’s critique—of the intellect, and his 
own passionate temperament and experiences, conspired to 
suggest to Schopenhauer the priinac\y and ultimacv of the 
will. Perhaps, too, Waterloo and St. Helena helj)ed to de¬ 
velop a pessimism born, no doubt, of bitter personal contact 
with the stings and penalties of life. Here was the most dy¬ 
namic individual will in all history, imperiously commanding 
continents; and yet its doom was as certain and ignominious 
as that of the insect to which the day of its birtli brings in- 
enviable death. It never occurred to Schopenhauer that it 
was better to have fought and lost than never to have fought 
1 Babbitt, Routseau and Romanticism, p. 208. 



576 THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 

at all; he did not feel, like the more masculine and vigoroul 
Hegel, the glory and desirability of strife; he longed for peace, 
and lived in the midst of war. Everywhere he saw strife; he 
could not see, behind the strife, the friendly aid of neighbors, 
the rollicking joy of children and young men, the dances of 
vivacious girls, the willing sacrifices of parents and lovers, the 
patient bounty of the soil, and the renaissance of spring. 

And what if desire, fulfilled, leads only to another desire? 
Perhaps it is better that we should never be content. Happi¬ 
ness, says an old lesson, lies rather in achievement than in 
possession or satiation. The healthy man asks not so much 
for happiness as lor an opportunity to exercise his capacities; 
and if he must pay the penalty of pain for this freedom and 
this power he makes the forfeit cheerfully; it is not too great 
a price. We need resistance to raise us, as it raises the air¬ 
plane or the bird; we need obstacles against which to sharpen 
Dur strength and stinuilale our growth. Life without tragedy 
fould be unworthy of a man.^ 

Is it true that ^‘he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sor¬ 
row,” and that it is the most highly organl/cd beings that 
suffer most? Yes; but it is also true that the growth of knowl¬ 
edge increases joy as well as sorrow, and that the subtlest de¬ 
lights, as well as the keenest pains, are reserved for the de¬ 
veloped soul. Voltaire rightly preferred the Brahmin’s ‘‘un- 
happy” wisdom to the blissful ignorance of the peasant woman; 
we wish to experience life keenly and deeply, even at the cost 
of pain; we wish to venture into its innermost secrets, even at 
the cost of disillusionment.^ Virgil, who had tasted every 

iCf. Schopenhauer himself: “To have no regular work, no set sphere of 
activity,—what a miserable thing it is! . . . Effort, struggles with difficulties! 
that is as natural to a man as grubbing in the ground is to a mole. To 
have all his wants satisfied is something intolerable—the feeling of stagnation 
which comes from pleasures that last too long. To overcome difficulties is 
to experience the full delight of existence.”—“Counsels and Maxims,” p. 53. 
One would like to know more of what the maturer Schopenhauer thought 
of the brilliant philosophy of his youth. 

2 Anatole France (Voltaire’s last avatar) has dedicated one of his 
masterpieces —The Human Tragedy —to the task of showing that though 



SCHOPExNIIAUER 


377 

pleasure, and knew the luxuries of imperial favor, at last 
“tired of everything except the joys of understanding.” 
When the senses cease to satisfy, it is something to ha\c won 
access, how'ever arduously, to comradeship with those artists, 
poets and philosophers whom only the mature mind can com¬ 
prehend. Wisdom is a bitter-sweet delight, deepened bv the 
very di.scords that enter into its liannony. 

Is pleasure negative? Only a sorely wounded soul, drawl¬ 
ing itself in from contact with the world, could have uttered 
so fundamental a blasphemy against life. What is pleasure 
but the harmonious operation of our instincts.^—and how' can 
pleasure be negative except where the instinct at work makes 
for retreat rather than for approach? The pleasures of es¬ 
cape and rest, of submission and security, of solitude and quiet 
are no doubt negative, because the instincts that impel us to 
them arc essentially negative—forms of flight and fear; but 
shall we say the same of the pleasures that come when positive 
instincts are in command—instincts of acquisition and posses¬ 
sion, of pugnacity and mastery, of action and play, of associa¬ 
tion and love? Is the joy of laughter negative, or the romp¬ 
ing of the child, or the song of the mating bird, or the crow 
of Chanticleer, or the creative ecstasy of art? Life itself is a 
positive force, and every normal function of it holds mme 
delight. 

It remains true, no doubt, that death is terrible. Much of 
its terror disappears if one has lived a normal life; one must 
have lived w'ell in order to die well. And would deathlessness 
delight us? Who envies the fate of Ahasuorus, to w'hom im¬ 
mortal life was sent as the heaviest punishment that could 
be inflicted upon man? And why is death terrible if not be¬ 
cause life is sweet? We need not say' with Napoleon that all 
who fear death are atheists at heart; but we may surely say 

“the joy of undcrstnndin*? Is n sad joy,” yet “those who have once tasted 
it would not exchange it for all the frivolous gaieties and empty hopes of 
the vulgar herd.” Cf. The Garden of Epicurus, New York, 1908, p. 120, 



878 THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 

that a man who lives to three-scorfe years and ten has survived 
his pessimism. No man, said Goethe, is a pessimist after 
thirty. And hardly before twenty; pessimism is a luxury of 
self-conscious and self-important youth; youth that comes out 
of the warm bosom of the communistic family into the cold 
atmosphere of individualistic competition and greed, and then 
yearns back to its mother’s breast; youth that hurls itself madly 
against the windmills and evils of the world, and sadly sheds 
utopias and ideals with every year. But before twenty is the 
joy of the body, and after thirty is the joy of the mind; before 
twenty is the pleasure of protection and security; and after 
thirty, the joy of parentage and home. 

How should a man avoid pessimism who has lived almost all 
his life in a boarding-house? And who abandoned his only 
child to illegitimate anonymity? ^ At the bottom of Scho¬ 
penhauer’s unhappiness was his rejection of the normal life,— 
his rejection of women and marriage and children. He finds 
in parentage the greatest of evils, where a healthy man finds 
in it the greatest of life’s satisfactions. He thinks that tht 
stealthiness of love is due to shame in continuing the race— 
could anything be more pedantically absurd ? He sees in love 
only the sacrifice of the individual to the race, and ignores the 
delights with which the instinct repays the sacrifice,—delights 
so great that they have inspired most of the poetry of the 
world.^ He knows woman only as shrew and as sinner, and 
he imagines that there are no other types. He thinks that 
the man who undertakes to support a wife is a fool; ^ but ap¬ 
parently such men are not much more unhappy than our pas¬ 
sionate apostle of single infelicity; and (as Balzac said) it 
costs as much to support a vice as it does to support a family. 
He scorns the beauty of woman,—as if there were any forms 
of beauty that we could spare, and that we should not cherish 

1 Finot, The Science of Happineee, New York, 1914, p. 70. 

2Cf., again, Schopenhauer himself: “It is just this not seeking of one's 
own things (which is everywhere the stamp of greatness) that gives to 
passionate love the touch of sublimity,''—III, 368, 

• Essay on Women, p. 73. 



SCHOPENHAUER 379 

as the color and fragrance of life. What hatred of women one 
mishap had generated in tliis unfortunate soul! 

There arc other difficulties, more teclinical and less vital, in 
this remarkable and stimulating philosopliy. How can suicide 
ever occur in a world where tlie only real force is the will to 
live.? How can the intellect, begotten and brought up as 
servant of the will, ever achieve independence and objectivity.? 
Docs genius lie in knowledge divorced from will, or does it con¬ 
tain, as its driving force, an immense power of will, even a 
large alloy of personal ambition and conceit? ^ Is madness 
connected with genius in general, or rather with only the “ro¬ 
mantic’’ typ^ of genius (Byron, Shelley, Poe, Heine, Swin¬ 
burne, Strindberg, Dostoievski, etc.) ; and is not the “classic” 
and profounder type of genius exceptionally sound (Socrates, 
Plato, Spinoza, Bacon, Newdon, Voltaire, Goethe, Darwin. 
Whitman, etc.) ? What if the proper function of intellect 
and philosophy Is not the denial of the will but the coordina¬ 
tion of desires into a united and harmonious wall? What if 
“wdll” itself, except as the unified product of such coordina¬ 
tion, is a mythical abstraction, as shadowy as “force”? 

Nevertheless there is about tliis j)hllosophy a blunt honesty 
by the side of which most optimistic creeds appear as soporific 
hypocrisies. It is all very well to say, w ith Spinoza, that r;ood 
and bad are subjective terms, human prejudices; and j^et we 
are compelled to judge this world not from any “impartial” 
view, but from the standpoint of actual human sufferings 
and needs. It was well that Schopenhauer should force 
philosophy to face the raw^ reality of evil, and should point the 
nose of thought to the luiinan tasks of alleviation. It has been 
harder, since his day, for philosophy to live in the unreal at¬ 
mosphere of a logic-chopping metaphysics; thinkers begin to 
realize that tliought without action is a disease. 

After all, Schopenhauer opened the eyes of psychologists 
to the subtle depth and omnipresent force of instinct. In- 

iCf. Schopenhauer: “The greatest intellectual capacities are only found 
In connection with a vehement and passionate will.”—II, 413. 



S80 


THE STORY OF PHILOSOTHY 


tcllectualism—tlie conception of man as above all a thinking 
animal, consciously adapting means to rationally chosen ends 
—fell sick with Rousseau, took to its bed with Kant, and died 
with Schopenhauer. After two centuries of introspective 
analysis philosophy found, behind thought, desire; and be¬ 
hind the intellect, instinct;—just as, after a century of ma¬ 
terialism, physics finds, behind matter, energy. We owe it 
to Schopenhauer that he revealed our secret hearts to us, 
showed us that our desires are the axioms of our philosophies, 
and cleared the way to an understanding of thought as no 
mere abstract calculation of impersonal events, but as a flexible 
instrument of action and desire. 

Finally, and despite exaggerations, Schopenhauer taught 
us again the necessity of genius, and the value of art. He saw 
that the ultimate good is beauty, and that the ultimate joy lies 
in the creation or cherishing of the beautiful. He joined 
with Goethe and Carlyle in ])rotcst against the attempt of 
Hegel and Marx and Buckle to eliminate genius as a funda¬ 
mental factor in human history; in an age when all the great 
seemed dead he preached once more the ennobling worship of 
heroes. And wdth all his faults he succeeded in adding an¬ 
other name to theirs. 



CIIAPTKIl vni 


HERHKRT SPJvXCER 

I. COMTK ANI> DAIIWIM 

T he Kantian ])liilosophy announced itself as 

“prolegomena to all future metaphysics,” was, by 
malicious intent, a murderous thrust at traditional 
modes of speculation; and, contrary to intent, a damaging 
blow to all metaphysics whatsoever. For metaphysics had 
meant, throughout the history of thought, an attempt to dis¬ 
cover the ultimate nature of reality; now men learned, on the 
most respectable authority, that reality could never be experi¬ 
enced; that it was a “noumenon,” conceivable but not know- 
able ; and that even the subtlest human intelligence could never 
pass beyond phenomena, could never ])iorce the veil of Maya. 
The meta])h 3 'sical extravagances of Fichte, Hegel and Schell- 
3ig, with their various readings of the ancient riddle, their Ego 
and Idea and Will, had canceled one another into zero; and 
by the eighteen-thirties the universe was generally conci tled 
to have guarded its secret well. After a generation of Ab¬ 
solute intoxication, the mind of Europe reacted by taking a 
pledge against metaphysics of any kind. 

Since the French had made a specialty of scepticism, it was 
natural that they should produce the founder (if there are 
such persons in philosophy, where every idea is hallowed with 
years) of the “positivist” movement. Auguste Comte—or, ns 
his parents called him, Isidore Auguste Marie Francois 
Xavier Comte—w'as born at Montpellier iti 1798. The idol 
of his youth was Benjamin Franklin, whom he called the 
modem Socrates. “You know that at five-and-twenty he 
formed the design of becoming perfectly wise, and that he 

381 



882 THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 

fulfilled his design. I have dared to undertake the same thing, 
though I am not yet twenty.” He made a fair start by be¬ 
coming secretary to the great Utopian, Saint-Simon, who 
passed on to him the reforming enthusiasm of Turgot and 
Condorcet, and the idea that social, like physical phenom¬ 
ena, might be reduced to laws and science, and that all philoso¬ 
phy should be focused upon the moral and political 
improvement of mankind. But, like most of us who set out to 
reform the world, Comte found it difficult enough to manage 
his own home; in 1827, after two years of marital infelicity, he 
suffered a mental break-do\\Ti, and attempted suicide in the 
Seine. To his rescuer, therefore, we owe something of the 
five volumes of Positive Philosophy which appeared between 
1830 and 1842, and the four volumes of Positive Polity which 
appeared between 1851 and 1854. 

This was an undertaking which, in scope and patience, 
was second in modern times only to Spencer’s ‘‘Synthetic 
Philosophy.” Here the sciences were classified according to 
the decreasing simplicity and generality of their subject- 
matter: mathematics, astronomy, physics, chemistry, biology, 
and sociology; each rested on the results of all the sciences be¬ 
fore it; therefore sociology was the apex of the sciences, and 
the others had their reason for existence only in so far as they 
could provide illumination for the science of society. Science, 
in the sense of exact knowledge, had spread from one subject- 
matter to another in the order given; and it was natural that 
the complex phenomena of social life should be the last to yield 
to scientific method. In each field of thought the historian of 
ideas could observe a Law of Three Stages: at first the subject 
was conceived in the theological fashion, and all problems 
were explained by the will of some deity—as when the stars 
were gods, or the chariots of gods; later, the same subject 
reached the metaphysical stage, and was explained by meta¬ 
physical abstractions—as when the stars moved in circles be¬ 
cause circles were the most perfect figure; finally the subject 
was reduce" to positp^e science by precise observation, hy- 



HERBERT SPENCER 


383 


pothesis, and experiment, and its plienomena were explained 
through the regularities of natural cause and effect. Tlie 
“Will of God” yields to sucli airy entities as Plato’s “Ideas” 
or Hegel’s “Absolute Idea,” and tlicse in turn yield to tlie 
laws of science. Mctapliysics is a stage of arrested develop¬ 
ment: the time had come, said Coiuie, to abandon these 
puerilities. Philosophy was not something different from 
science; it was tlie coordination of all the scTences with a view 
to the improvement of liuinan lif *. 

There was a certain dogmatic intellectual ism about this 
positivism which perhaps reflected the disillusioned and 
isolated philosopher. When, in 1815, Mine. Clotildc de Vaux 
(whose husband was spending liis life in jail) look charge 
of Comte’s heart, liis affection ft)r her warmed and colored his 
thought, and led to a reaction in ^\hic]i lie jdaced feeling a])ove 
intelligence as a reforming force, and concluded that the world 
could be redeemed onh^ by a new religion, whose function it 
should be to nourish and strengthen the feeble altruism of 
human nature by exalting Ilumanlly as the object of a 
ceremonial worship. Comte spent his old age dc\ising for 
this Religion of Humanity an intricate system of priesthood, 
sacraments, prayers, and discij^line; and proposed a new 
calendar in which the names of pagan deities and medieval 
saints should be replaced ])y tlie licroes ot human prog i ess. 
As a wit put it, Comte offered the world all of Catholicism 
except Christianity. 

The positivist movement fell in with the flow of English 
thought, which took its spirit from a life of industry and 
trade, and looked uj) to matters of fact with a certain rev¬ 
erence. The Baconian tradition had turned thought in the 
direction of things, mind in the direction of matter; the 
materialism of Hobbes, the sensationalism of Locke, the 
scepticism of Hume, the ultilitarianism of Bcntham, were so 
many variations on the theme of a practical and busy life. 
Berkeley was an Irish discord in this domestic symphony. 
Hegel laughed at the English habit of honoring physical and 



384 


THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 


chemical equipment with the name of “philosophical instru¬ 
ments”; but such a term came naturally to men who agreed 
with Comte and Spencer in defining philosophy as a generali¬ 
zation of the results of all the sciences. So it was that the 
positivist movement found more adherents in England than in 
the land of its birth; adherents perhaps not so fervent as the 
generous Littre, but endowed with that English tenacity which 
kept John Stuart Mill (1806-73) and Frederick Harrison 
(1831-1923) faithful all their lives to Comte^s philosophy, 
while their English caution kept them aloof from his cere¬ 
monious religion. 

Meanwhile the Industrial Revolution, born of a little 
science, was stimulating science in return. Newton and 
Herschel had brought the stars to England, Boyle and Davy 
had opened the treasures of chemistry, Faraday was making 
the discoveries that would electrif}" the world, Rumford and 
Joule were demonstrating the transformability and equiva¬ 
lence of force and the conservation of energy. The sciences 
were reaching a stage of complexity which would make a 
bewildered world welcome a synthesis. But above all these 
intellectual influences that stirred England in the youth of 
Herbert Spencer was the growth of biology, and the doctrine 
of evolution. Science had been exemplarily international in 
the development of this doctrine: Kant had spoken of the 
possibility of apes becoming men; Goethe had written of 
“the metamorphosis of plants; Erasmus Darwin and Lamarck 
had propounded the theory that species had evolved from 
simpler forms by the inheritance of the effects of use and 
disuse; and in 1830 St. Hilaire shocked Europe, and glad¬ 
dened old Goethe, by almost triumphing against Cuvier in 
that famous debate on evolution which seemed like another 
Ernaniy another revolt against classic ideas of changeless rules 
and orders in a changeless world. 

In the eighteen-fifties evolution was in the air. Spencer 
expressed the idea, long before Darwin, in an essay on “The 
Development Hypothesis” (1852), and in his Principles of 



herbp:rt spencer 


385 


Psychology (1855). In 1858 Darwin ami Wallace read their 
famous papers before the Linnaean Society; and in 1859 the 
old world, as the good bishops thought, crashed to pieces >vith 
the publication of the Origin of Species. Here was no mere 
vague notion of evolution, of higher species evolving somehow 
from lower ones; but a detailed and i*ich]y documented theory 
of the actual inode and process of evolution “by means of 
natural selection, or tlic iirescrvatinn of faverred races in the 
struggle for life.” In one decade all the \\()rld was talking 
about evolution. What lifted Spencer to tii(‘ crest of this 
wave of thought was the claritj' of mind vhicli s;igg(‘sted ilie 
application of the evolution idea to every field of study, and 
the range of mind w'hich brought almost all know hedge Lo pay 
tribute to his theory. As mathematics had dominated phi¬ 
losophy in the seventeenth century, giving to ilie world 
Descartes, Hobbes, Sj)inoza, Leibnitz and Pascal; and as psy¬ 
chology had written ])hilosophy in Berkeley and Hume and 
Condillac and Kant; so in the nineteenth century, in Schelling 
and Schopenhauer, in Sj^encer and Xiet/sche and Bergson, 
biology was the background of philosophic thought. In each 
case the epochal ideas were the piece-meal production of 
separate men, more or less obscure; but the ideas arc attached 
to the men who coordinated and clarified them, as the New 
World took the name of Amerigo Vespucci because he ci ew' 
a map. Herbert Spencer was the Vespucci of the age of 
Darwin, and something of its Columbus too. 


II. THE DEVELOPMENT OF SPENCER 

He was born at Derby in 1820. In both lines his ancestors 
were Non-conformists or Dissenters. His father’s mother had 
been a devoted follower of John Wesley; his father’s brother, 
Thomas, though an Anglican clergyman, led a W esleyaii 
movement wdthin the Church, never attended a concert or a 
play, and took an active part in movements for political re¬ 
form. This drive to heresy became stronger in the father, 



386 THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 

and culminated in the almost obstinate individualism of 
Herbert Spencer himself. The father never used the super¬ 
natural to explain anything; he was described by one ac¬ 
quaintance (though Herbert considered this an exaggeration) 
as ‘‘without faith or religion w^hatever, so far as one could 
see.” ^ He was inclined to science, and wrote an Invcntional 
Geometry. In politics he was an individualist like his son and 
‘"would never take off his hat to anyone, no matter of what 
rank.” ^ “If he did not understand some question my mother 
put, he would remain silent; not asking what the question 
was, and letting it go unanswered. He continued this course 
all through his life, notwithstanding its futility; there re¬ 
sulted no improvement.” ^ One is reminded (except for the 
silence) of Herbert Spencer’s resistance, in his later years, to 
the extension of State functions. 

The father, as well as an uncle and the paternal grand¬ 
father, were teachers of private schools; and yet the son, who 
was to be the most famous English philosopher of his century, 
remained till forty an uneducated man. Herbert was lazy, 
and the father was indulgent. At last, when he was thirteen, 
Herbert was sent to Hinton to study under his uncle, who 
had a reputation for severity. But Herbert promptly ran 
away from the uncle, and trudged all the way back to the 
paternal home at Derby—48 miles the first day, 47 the next, 
and 20 the third, all on a little bread and beer. Neverthe¬ 
less he returned to Hinton after a few weeks, and stayed for 
three years. It was the only systematic schooling that he 
ever received. He could not say, later, just what it was he 
learned there; no history, no natural science, no general litera¬ 
ture. He says, with characteristic pride: “That neither in 
boyhood nor youth did I receive a single lesson in English, 
and that I have remained entirely without formal knowledge 
of syntax down to the present hour, are facts which should 

1 Spencer, Autobiography, New York, 1904; vol. 1, p. 51. 

2P. 53. 

»P. 61. 



HERBERT SPENCER 387 

be known; since their implications are at variance with as¬ 
sumptions universally accepted.” ^ .\t the age of forty he 

tried to read the Iliads but “after reading some six books I 
felt what a task it would be to go on—felt that I would ratlier 
give a large sum than read to tlie end.” - Collier, one of his 
secretaries, tells us that Si)encer never finished any book of 
science.'** Even in his favorite fields he received no systematic 
instruction. He burnt his fingers and achieved a few ex¬ 
plosions in chemistry; he browned ent(*iiiologically among the 
bugs about school and home; and he learned something about 
strata and fossils in his later work as a ci\ii engineer; for the 
rest he picked his science casually as he went along, lentil he 
was thirty he had no thouglit at all of philosophy.*^ Then he 
read Lewes, and tried to pass on to Kant; but finding, at the 
outset, that Kant considered sjiace and time to be forms of 
sense-perception rather than objective things, he decided that 
Kant was a dunce, and threw the hook away.'"’ His secretary 
tells us that Spencer composed his first book, Social Stat- 
ics, “having read no other ethical treatise than an old and 
now forgotten book by Jonathan Dymond.” lie wrote his 
Psychology after reading only Hume, IVIansel and Reid; his 
Biology after reading only Carpenter’s Comparative Physi- 
ology (and not the Origin of Species) ; his Sociology without 
reading Comte or Tylor; his Ethics without reading Kant or 
Mill or any other moralist than Sedgwick.® Wliat a contrast 
to the intensive and relentless education of John Stuart Mill! 

Where, then, did he find those myriad facts with which he 
propped up his tliousand arguments.? He “picked them up,” 
for the most part, by direct observation rather than by read¬ 
ing. “His curiosity was ever awake, and he was continually 
directing the attention of his companion to some notable 

ip. vii. 

2 P. 800. 

* Appendix to Royce’s Herbert Spencer, 

^Autob,. i, 438. 

*Pp. 289, 291. 

•Collier, in Royce, 210f. 



S88 


THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 


phenomenon . . . until then seen by his eyes alone.” At the 
Athenaeum Club he pumped Huxley and his other friends 
almost dry of their expert knowledge; and he ran through the 
periodicals at the Club as he had run through those that 
passed through his father’s hands for the Philosophical 
Society at Derby, ‘‘lynx-eyed for every fact that was grist to 
his mill.” ^ Having determined what he wanted to do, and 
having found the central idea, evolution, about which all his 
work would turn, his brain became a magnet for relevant 
material, and the unprecedented orderliness of his thought 
classified the material almost automatically as it came. No 
wonder the proletaire and the business man heard him gladly; 
here was just such a mind as their own—a stranger to book¬ 
learning, innocent of “culture” and yet endowed with the 
natural, matter-of-fact knowledge of the man who learns as 
he works and lives. 

For he was working for his living: and his profession in¬ 
tensified the practical tendency of his thought. He w^as sur¬ 
veyor, supervisor and designer of raihvay lines and bridges, 
and in general an engineer. He dripped inventions at every 
turn; they all failed, but he looked back upon them, in his 
Autobiography^ with the fondness of a father for a wayward 
son; he sprinkled his reminiscent pages with patent salt¬ 
cellars, jugs, candle-extinguishers, invalid-chairs, and the like. 
As most of us do in youth, he invented new diets too; for a 
time he was vegetarian; but he abandoned it when he saw a 
fellow-vegetarian develop anemia, and himself losing strength; 
“I found that I had to rewrite what I had written during the 
time I was a vegetarian, because it was so wanting in vigor.” “ 
He was ready in those days to give everything a trial; he even 
thought of migrating to New Zealand, forgetting that a young 
country has no use for philosophers. It was characteristic 
of him that he made parallel lists of reasons for and against 
the move, giving each reason a numerical value. The sums 

# Ibid, 

2Autob.j i, 401 



HERBERT SPENCER 389 

being 110 points for remaining in England and 301 for going, 
he remained. 

His cliaracter had the defects of its virtues. He paid for 
his resolute realism and practical sense by missing the spirit 
and zest of poetry and art. The only poetical touch in his 
twenty volumes was due to a printer vliu made Spencer specak 
of “the daily versification of scientific predictions.’" He had 
a fine persistence whose other side ^\as an opinionated ob¬ 
stinacy; he could sweep the entire uni\ersc for proofs of his 
hypotheses, but he could not sec with any insiglit another's 
point of view; he had the egotism that hears up the non- 
conformcr, and he could not carry his greatness witliouh some 
conceit. He had the limitations of the pioneer: a dogmatic 
narrowness accompanying a courageous candor and an intense 
originality; sternly resisting all flattery, rejecting proffered 
governmental honors, and pursuing his painful work for forty 
years in chronic ill-health and modest seclusion; and yet 
marked, by some phrenologist who gained access to him— 
“Self-esteem very large.” ^ The son and grandson of 
teachers, he wueldcd the ferule in his books, and struck a high 
didactic tone. “I am never jiuzzled,” he tells us.- His 
solitary bachelor life left him lacking in the warmly human 
qualities, though he could be indignantly humane. He hi I 
an affair with that great Englishman, George Eliot, but she 
had too much intellect to please him.^ He lacked humor, and 
had no subtlety or nuances in his style. When he lost at his 
favorite game of billiards, he denounced his opponent for 
devoting so much time to such a game as to have become an 
expert in it. In his Autobiography he writes reviews of his 
own early books, to show how it should have been done.*^ 

Apparently the magnitude of his task compelled him to 
look upon life with more seriousness than it deserves. ‘‘I was 
at the Fete of St. Cloud on Sunday,” he writes from Paris; 

1 P. 228. 

2 P. 464. 

8 1, 457-62; II, 44. 

415, 546. 



390 


THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 


^^and was much amused by the juvenility of the adults. The 
French never entirely cease to be boys; I saw gray-haired 
people riding on whirligigs such as we have at our own fairs.” ^ 
He was so busy analyzing and describing life that he had no 
time to live it. After seeing Niagara Falls he jotted down 
in his diary: ‘‘Much what I had expected.” “ He describes 
the most ordinary incidents with the most magnificent ped¬ 
antry—as when he tells us of the only time he ever swore.''^ 
He suffered no crises, felt no romance (if his memoirs record 
him well) ; he had some intimacies, but he writes of them 
almost mathematically; he plots the curves of his tepid friend¬ 
ships without any uplifting touch of j)assion. A friend said 
of himself that he could not write well when dictating to a 
young woman stenographer; Spencer said that it did not 
bother him at all. His secretary says, ‘"The passionless thin 
lips told of a total lack of sensuality, and the liglit eyes be¬ 
trayed a lack of emotional depth.” ^ Hence the monot¬ 
onous levelness of his style: he never soars, and needs no 
exclamation-points; in a romantic century he stands like a 
sculptured lesson in dignity and reserve. 

He had an exceptionally logical mind; he marshalled his 
a prioris and his a posterioris with the precision of a chess 
player. He is the clearest expositor of complex subjects that 
modern history can show; he wrote of difficult problems in 
terms so lucid that for a generation all the world was in¬ 
terested in philosophy. “It has been remarked,” he says, “that 
I have an unusual faculty of exposition—set forth my data 
and reasonings and conclusions with a clearness and coherence 
not common.” ® He loved spacious generalizations, and made 
his works interesting rather with his hypotheses than with his 
proofs. Huxley said that Spencer’s idea of a tragedy was 

11, 533. 

2 II, 465. 

3 Tyndall once said of him what a much better fellow he would be if he 
had a good swear now and again.—Elliott, llerbert Spencer, p. 61. 

4 Royce, 188, 

fiAutob., ii, 511. 



HERBERT SPENCER 391 

a theory killed by a fact; ^ and there were so many theories 
in Spencer’s mind that he was bound to have a tragedy every 
day or two. Huxley, struck by tlie feeble and undecided 
gait of Buckle, said of him to Spencer: ^‘Ah, I see the 
kind of man; he is top-heavy.” ‘T>uckle,” Spencer adds, 
‘^had taken in a much larger quantiiy of matter than he 
could organize.”^ With Spencer it was the other way: he 
organized much more than he harl taken In. lie was all for 
coordination and synthesis; he deprecailed Carlyle Tor lack¬ 
ing a similar turn. The fondness for ord^u' became in him 
an enslaving passion; a brilliant generall/ation over-mastered 
him. But the world was calling for a mind like his; one v ho 
could transform the wilderness of facts with sunlit clarity 
into civilized meaning; and tlie service which Spencer per¬ 
formed for his generation entitled him to the failings that 
made him liuman. If he has been pictured here rather 
frankly, it is because we love a great man better when we 
know his faults, and suspiciously dislike him when he shines in 
unmitigated perfection. 

^‘Up to this date,” wrote Spencer at forty, ‘buy life 
might fitly have been characterized as miscellaneous.” ^ 
Seldom has a philovsopher’s career ‘^liown such desultory vr -il¬ 
lation. ‘Wbout this time” (age twenty-three) ‘hny attention 
turned to the construction of watches.” ^ But gradually he 
found his field, and tilled it with honest husbandry. As early 
as 184^2 he wrote, for the Non-conformist (note the medium 
he chose), some letters on ”The Proper Si)]iere of (loverii- 
ment,” which contained his later laissez-faire pliilosophy in 
ovo. Six years later he dropped engineering to edit The 
Economist. At the age of thirty, when he spoke disparag- 
ingly of Jonathan Dymond's Essays on the Principles of 
Morality^ and his father challenged him to do as well with 

11, 467. 

2 11, 4. 

2 IT, 67. 

♦ I. 279, 



S92 


THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 


such a subject, he took the dare, and wrote his Social Statics. 
It had only a small sale, but it won him access to the maga¬ 
zines. In 1852 his essay on ‘‘The Theory of Poj)ulation’’ 
(one of the many instances of Malthus’ influence on the 
thought of the nineteenth century) suggested that the strug¬ 
gle for existence leads to a survival of the fittest, and coined 
those historic phrases. In the same year his essay on “The 
Development Hypothesis” met the trite objection—that the 
origin of new species by progressive modification of older ones 
had never been seen—by pointing out that the same argument 
told much more strongly against the theory of the “special 
creation” of new species by God; and it went on to show that 
the development of new species was no more marvelous or 
incredible than the development of a man from ovum and 
sperm, or of a plant from a seed. In 1855 his second book. 
The Principles of Psychology^ undertook to trace the evolu¬ 
tion of mind. Then, in 1857, came an essay on “Progress, 
Its Law and Cause,” which took up Von Baer’s idea of the 
growth of all living forms from homogeneous beginnings to 
heterogeneous developments, and lifted it into a general prin¬ 
ciple of history and progress. In short Spencer had grown 
with the spirit of his age, and was ready now to become the 
philosopher of universal evolution. 

When, in 1858, he was revising his essays for collective pub¬ 
lication, he was struck by the unity and sequence of the ideas 
he had expressed; and the notion came to him, like a burst 
of sunlight through opened doors, that the theory of evolution 
might be applied in every science as well as in biology; that 
it could explain not only species and genera but planets and 
strata, social and political history, moral and esthetic con¬ 
ceptions. He was fired with the thought of a series of works 
in which he would show the evolution of matter and mind from 
nebula to man, and from savage to Shakespeare. But he 
almost despaired when he thought of his nearly forty years. 
How could one man, so old, and an invalid, traverse all the 
sphere of human knowledge before his death? Only thres 






HERBERT SPENCER 


393 

years back he had had a complete break-down; for eighteen 
months lie had been incapacitated, broken in mind and 
courage, wandering aimlessly and hopelessly from place to 
place. The consciousness of his latent powers made his we;d<- 
ness a bitter thing to liim. He knew Ibat he would never be 
quite healthy again, and that he could not bear mental work 
for more than an hour at a time, .\e\er i\as a man so handi¬ 
capped for the work he chose, and Me\er did a man choose, sc 
late in life, so great a work. 

He was poor. lie liad not iriven iniicli to a 

living. “I don’t mean to get on,” lie said; ‘‘I don't think 
getting on is wortli tlie hotlier.” ^ He liad resigned tlie editor¬ 
ship of The Economist on receiving $‘d,500 as bequest from an 
uncle; but his idleness had consumed this gift. It occurred 
to him now that he might seek advance subscrijitions for his 
intended volumes, and so live from hand to mouth, and pay 
his way as he went. He pre])arod an outline, and submitted it 
to Huxley, liCwes, and other friends; tliey secured him an im¬ 
posing list of initial subscribers whose names might adorn his 
prospectus: Kingsley, Lyell, Hooker, Tyndall, Buckle, Froude, 
Bain, Herschel and others. Published in 18(50, this prosj)cctus 
brought 440 subscriptions from Kurope, and 200 from Amer¬ 
ica; the total promising a modest $1,500 a year. Spencer \ s 
satisfied, and set to work with a will. 

But after the ])ublication of First Principles, in 1862, many 
subscribers withdrew their names because of the famous “Part 
One,” which, attempting to reconcile science and religion, 
offended bishops and ])undits alike. The way of tlie ])eacc- 
maker is hard. First Principles and The Origin of Species 
became the center of a groat Battle of the Books, in which 
Huxley wServed as generalissimo for the forces of Ilarwinisni 
and agnosticism. For a time the evolutionists were severely 
ostracised by respectable pcojile; they wei’e denounced as im¬ 
moral monsters, and it was thought good form to insult them 
publicly. Spencer’s subscribers fell away with everj^ instal- 

^ A. Thomson, Herbert Spencer, p. 71. 



99t 


THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 


ment, and many defaulted on payments due for instalments 
received. Spencer went on as long as he could, paying out 
of his pocket the deficit which every issue involved. At last 
his funds and his courage were exhausted, and he issued to the 
remaining subscribers an announcement that he could no 
longer continue his work. 

Then came one of the encouraging incidents of history. 
Spencer’s greatest rival, who had held the field of English 
philosophy before the publication of First Principles^ and 
now saw himself superseded by the philosopher of evolution, 
wrote to him as follows, on February 4, 1866: 

Dear Sir: 

On arriving here last week, I found the December livraison 
of your Biology^ and I need hardly say how much I regretted 
the announcement in the paper annexed to it. ... I pro¬ 
pose that you should write the next of your treatises, and 
that I should guarantee the publisher against loss. ... I 
beg that you will not consider this proposal in the light of a 
personal favor, though even if it were I should still hope 
to be permitted to offer it. But it is nothing of the kind— 
it is a simple proposal of cooperation for an important pub¬ 
lic purpose, for which you give your labor and have given 
your health. I am, Dear Sir, 

Very truly yours, 

J. S. Mill.i 

Spencer courteously refused; but Mill went out among his 
friends and persuaded several of them to subscribe for 250 
copies each. Spencer again objected, and could not be 
moved. Then suddenly came a letter from Prof. Youmans, 
saying that Spencer’s American admirers had bought, in his 
name, $7000 of public securities, of which the interest or 
dividends were to go to him. This time he yielded. The 
spirit of the gift renewed his inspiration; he resumed his task; 
and for forty years he kept his shoulder to the wheel, until 
all the Synthetic Philosophy had arrived safely into print. 


lAutoh,, ii, 156. 



HERBERT SPENCER 395 

This triumph of mind and will over illness and a thousand ob¬ 
stacles is one of the sunny spots in the book of man. 

III. FIRST FUIXCTPLES 

1. The Vnhnoicahlc 

‘^We too often forget,” says S})enrcr at hie outset, ^Hhat 
not only is there ‘a soul of in tilings evil,’ but 

generally also a soul of truth in tilings erroneous.” He pro¬ 
poses, therefore, to examine religious ideas, with a view to 
finding that core of truth which under the changing form of 
many faiths, has given to religion its ])ersistent ])Ower over 
the human soul. 

What he finds at once is that every theory of tlie origin of 
the universe drives us into inconceivabilities. The atheist 
tries to think of a self-existent world, uncaused and without 
beginning; but we cannot conceive of anything beginningless 
or uncaused. The tlieist merely puts back the difficulty 
by a step; and to the theologian who says, ‘^God. made the 
world,” the child’s unanswerable ({uery comes, ‘‘Who made 
God?” All ultimate religious ideas are logically incon¬ 
ceivable. 

All ultimate scientific ideas are eciually beyond rational con- 
cci>tion. What is matter.^ We reduce it to atoms, and then 
find ourselves forced to divide the atom as we liad divided the 
molecule; we are driven into the dilemma that matter is in¬ 
finitely divisible,—which is inconceivable; or that there is a 
limit to its divisibility,—which also is inconceivable. So with 
the divisibility of sjiace and time; both of these are ultimately 
irrational ideas. Motion is wrapped in a trii)le obscurity, 
since it involves matter changing, in time, its position in 
space. When we analyze matter resolutely we find nothing 
at last but force—a force impressed upon our organs of 
sense, or a force resisting our organs of action; and who shall 
tell us what force is? Turn from physics to psychology, and 



396 


THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 


we come upon mind and consciousness:: and licre are greater 
puzzles tlian before. “Ultimate scientific ideas,” then, “are 
all representations of realities that cannot be comprehended. 
... In all directions tlie scientist’s investigations bring him 
face to face with an insoluble enigma; and he ever more clearly 
perceives it to be an insoluble enigma. He learns at once 
the greatness and the littleness of the human intellect—its 
power in dealing witli all that comes within the range of ex¬ 
perience, its impotence in dealing with all that transcends 
experience. He, more than any other, truly kiiorcs that in 
its ultimate nature nothing can be known.” ^ The only 
honest philosophy, to use Iluxlej’^s word, is agnosticism. 

The common cause of these obscurities is the relativity of 
all knowledge. “Thinking being relating, no thought can ex¬ 
press more than relations. . . . Intellect being framed sim])ly 
by and for converse with phenomena, involves us in nonsense 
when we try to use it for anything beyond phenomena.” ^ 
And yet the relative and phenomenal imply by their names 
and natures something beyond them, something ultimate and 
absolute. “On watching our thoughts we see how impossible 
it is to get rid of the consciousness of an Actuality lying 
behind Appearances, and how from this im[)ossibiHty results 
our indestructible belief in that Actualitj".”But what that 
Actuality is we cannot know. 

From this point of view the reconciliation of science and 
religions is no longer very difficult. “Truth generally lies 
in the coordination of antagonistic opinions.” ^ Let science 
admit that its “laws” apply only to plienomcna and the rela¬ 
tive; let religion admit that its theology is a rationalizing 
myth for a belief that defies conception. Let religion cease 
to picture the Absolute as a magnified man; much worse, as 
a cruel and blood-thirsty and treacherous monster, afflicted 

^ Fir$t Principles. New York, 1910; p. 56. 

2 Pp. 107-108. This unconsciously follows Kant, and succinctly anticipates 

Bergson. 

8 P. 83. 

^Autob., li, 16. 




HERBERT SPENCER 


397 


with love of adulation such as would he despised in a 
human bein^^.’^ ^ T.et science ccasc to den}^ deity, or to ta!:e 
materialism for granted. Mind and matter are, equally, 
relative jihenomena, the double effect of an ultimate cause 
whose nature must remain unknown. Tlie recoi^nition of this 
Inscrutable Power is the core of truth in every religion, end 
the beginning of all philoso])hy. 

ETolutiorb 

Having indicated the unknowable, philosoj)hv surrenders 
it, and turns its face to what can be known. Metaphysics is 
a mirage: as Michelet put it, it is ‘"the art of t)cfu(l(lling one’s 
self methodically.” The ])roper field and function of plii- 
losophy lies in the summation and unification of the results 
of science. ‘‘Knowledge of the lowest kind is un-unified 
knowledge; science is ])artially-unified knowledge; philosophy 
is complctelv-unified knowledge.” - Such complete unifica- 
tion requires a broad and universal principle that will Include 
all experience, and will describe the essential features of all 
knowdedge. Is there a principle of this kind? 

We may perhaps ajtproach such a ])rinciple hy tryiiif; to 
unify the liighest generalizations of ])liysicH. These are .le 
indestructibility of matter, the conservation of energy, the 
continuity of motion, the ]>crsistencc of relatioi s among forces 
(i. e., the inviolability of natural law), the transforinability 
and equivalence of forces (even of mental and idiysical 
forces), and the rhythm of motion. This last generalization, 
not usually recognized, needs only to be ])ointed out. All 
nature is rhythmical, from the pulsations of heat to the vibra¬ 
tions of violin strings; from the undulations of light, heat and 
sound to the tides of the sea; from the periodicities of sex 
to the periodicities of planets and comets and stars; from the 
alternation of night and day to the succession of the seasons, 

^F. P., 103. 

2P. 119. 



398 


THE STORY OF THILOSOPHY 


and perhaps to the rhythms of climatic change; from the 
oscillations of molecules to the rise and fall of nations and 
the birth and death of stars. 

All these ‘‘laws of the knowable” are reducible (by an 
analysis which must not here be followed in detail) to the final 
law of the persistence of force. Hut there is something static 
and inert about this principle; it does not so much as hint 
at the secret of life. What is the dynamic principle of 
reality.? What is the formula of the growth and decay of 
all things.? It must be a formula of evolution and dissolu¬ 
tion, for “an entire history of an 3 dhing must include its 
appearance out of the imperceptible and its disappearance 
into the imperceptible.^’ ^ 

So Spencer offers us his famous formula of evolution, which 
made the intellect of Europe gasp for breath, and required 
ten volumes and fort^" years for its explanation. “Evolution 
is an integration of matter and a concomitant dissipation of 
motion; during which the matter passes from an indefinite, in¬ 
coherent homogcncitj” to a definite, coherent heterogeneity; 
and during which the retained motion undergoes a parallel 
transformation.”- What does this mean? 

The growdh of planets out of nebulae; the formation of 
oceans and mountains on the earth; the metabolism of elements 
by plants, and of animal tissues by men; the development 
of the heart in the ernbrj^o, and the fusion of bones after 
birth; the unification of sensations and memories into knowl¬ 
edge and thought, and of knowledge into science and phi¬ 
losophy; the development of families into clans and gentes 
and cities and states and alliances and the “federation of the 
W'orld”: here is the integration of matter,—the aggregation 
of separate items into masses and groups and wholes. Such 
integration of course involves a lessening of motion in the parts, 
as the growing powder of the state lessens the freedom of the 
individual; but at the same time it gives to the parts an inter- 

1 P. 253. 

2 P. 367. 



HERBERT SPENCER 


399 


dependence, a protective tissue of relationships, which consti¬ 
tute ‘‘coherence” and promote corporate survival. The j)ro- 
ccss brings, too, a greater definiteness of forms and func¬ 
tions: the nebula is shapeless, nebulous; and yet out of it come 
the cllij)tical regularity of the planets, the sharp lines of 
mountain-chains, the specific form and character of organisms 
and organs, the division of labor and specialization of function 
in phj^siological and })olitical structures, etc. And the parts 
of this integrating whole beconu* not merely definite but 
diverse, heterogeneous in nature and operation. Tlie prime¬ 
val nebula is homogeneous—i. e., it consists of parts that are 
alike; but soon it is differentiated into gases and liquids and 
solids; the earth becomes here green witli grass, tliern wlutc 
with mountain-tops, or blue with the multitudinous sea; 
evolving life begets, out of a relatively homogeneous proto¬ 
plasm, the varied organs of nutrition, reproduction, locomo¬ 
tion, and perception; a simple language fills whole continents 
with its multiplying dialects; a single science breeds a hun¬ 
dred, and the folk-lore of a nation flowers into a thousand 
forms of literary art; individuality grows, character stands 
out uniquely, and every race and people develoi)s its peculiar 
genius. Integration and heterogeneity, aggregation of parts 
into ever larger wholes and differentiation of ])arts into ever 
more varied forms: these are the foci of the orbit of evolul ^ n. 
Whatever passes from diffusion to integration and unity, and 
from a homogeneous simplicity to a dilfereni i'tod complexity 
(cf. America, 1600-1900), is in the How of evolution; what¬ 
ever is returning from integration to diffusion, and from 
complexity to simplicity (cf. Europe JJOO—600 a. d.), is caught 
in the ebb of dissolution. 

Not content with this synthetic formula, Spencer endeavors 
to show how it follow’s by inevitable neces^^ity from the natural 
operation of mechanical forces. There is, first, a certain “In¬ 
stability of the Homogeneous”: i. e., similar parts cannot long 
remain similar because they arc uncvcnlj^ subjected to external 
forces; outer parts, e. g., are sooner attacked, like coast-line 



400 THE STORY OP PHILOSOPHY 

towns in war; and the variety of occupations moulds simi¬ 
lar men into tlic varied embodiments of a luindred profes¬ 
sions and trades. There is, again, a ‘‘IVIultiplication of 
Effects”: one cause maj" produce a vast variety of results, 
and Iielp to differentiate the world; a word amiss, like Marie 
Antoinette’s, or an altered telegram at Ems, or a wind at 
Salamis, ma}^ endless role in history. And there is 

tlie law of “Segregation”: the parts of a relatively homo¬ 
geneous whole, being driven separate into different areas, are 
shaped by diverse environmenls into dissimilar products,— 
as the English become Americans, or Canadians, or Aus¬ 
tralians, according to the genius of the place. In these many 
ways the forces of nature build the variety of this evolving 
world. 

But finally, and inescapably, comes “Equilibration.” 
Every motion, being motion under resistance, must sooner or 
later come to an end; every rhytlimic oscillation (unless exter¬ 
nally reinforced) suffers some loss of rate and amplitude. 
The planets ride through a lesser orbit, or will ride, than once 
they rode; the sun will shine less warmly and brightly as the 
centuries pass away; the friction of the tides will retard the 
rotation of the earth. This globe, that throbs and murmurs 
with a million motions, and luxuriates into a million forms of 
riotously breeding life, will some day move more leisurely in 
its orbit and its parts; the blood will run cooler and more 
slowly in our desiccated veins; we shall not hurry any more; 
like dying races, we shall think of heaven in terms of rest and 
not of life; we shall dream of Nirvana. Gradually, and then 
rapidly, equilibration will become dissolution, the unhappy 
epilogue of evolution. Societies will disintegrate, masses will 
migrate, cities will fade into the dark hinterland of peasant 
life; no government will be strong enough to hold the loosened 
parts together; social order will cease to be even remembered. 
And in the individual too, integration will give way to disrup¬ 
tion; and that coordination which is life will pass into that 
diffuse disorder which is death. The earth will be a chaotic 



HERBERT SPENCER 


401 


theatre of decay, a gloomy drama of energy in irreversible 
degradation; and it will Itself lx? resolved into the dust 
and nebula from which it came. The cycle of evolution and 
dissolution will he complete. The cycle will begin again, and 
endless times again; hut alw ays this w ill he the denouement. 
Memento mori is written upon the face of life; and every birth 
is a prelude to decay and death. 

First Principles is a magnificcml draina, telling with almost 
classic calm the story of the rise and fall, the evolution and 
dissolution, of planets and life and man; but it is a tragic 
drama, for which the fittest epihjguc is HamlePs word—“The 
rest is silence.’’ Is there any wonder that men and w'omen 
nurtured on faith and hope rebelled against this summary of 
existence.'^ We know that we must die; hut as it is a matter 
that will take care of itself, we prefer to think of life. There 
was in Spencer an almost Schopenhauerian sense of the 
futility of human effort. \t the end of his triumphant career 
he expressed his feeling that life was not w^orth living. He 
liad the philosopher’s disease of seeing so far ahead that all 
the little pleasant shapes and colors of existence passed under 
his nose unseen. 

He knew that people would not relish a philosophy wdiose 
last word was not God and heaven, hut equilibration and (hs- 
solution; and in concluding this First Part he defended with 
unusual eloquence and fervor liis right to speak the dark 
truths that he saw\ 

Whoever hesitates to utter that which he thinks the high¬ 
est truth, lest it should be too much in advance of the time, 
may reassure himself hy looking at his acts from an imper¬ 
sonal point of view’. Let him remember that opinion is the 
agency through which character adapts external arrange¬ 
ments to itself, and that his opinion rightly forms part of 
this agency—is a unit of force constituting, with other such 
units, the general power which works out social changes; 
and he will perceive that he may properly give utterance to 



402 


THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 


his innermost conviction; leaving it to produce what effect 
it ma3\ It is not for nothing that he has in him these sym¬ 
pathies with some principles and repugnance to others. He, 
with all his capacities, and aspirations, and beliefs, is not an 
accident but a product of the time. While he is a descend¬ 
ant of the past he is a parent of the future; and his thoughts 
are as children born to him, which he ma}^ not carelessly" let 
die. Like every" other man he may properly consider liim- 
self as one of the myriad agencies througli whom works the 
Unknown Cause; and when the Unknown Cause produces in 
him a certain belief, he is thereby authorized to profess and 
act out that belief. . . . Not as adventitious therefore will 
the wise man regard the faith that is in him. The highest 
truth he sees he will fearlessly utter; knowing that, let what 
may come of it, he is thus playing his right part in the world 
—knowing that if he can effect the change he aims at—well; 
if not—well also; though not so well. 

IV. biology: the evolution of life 

The second and third volumes of the Synthetic Philosophy 
appeared in 1872 under the title of Principles of Biology, 
They’" revealed the natural limitations of a philosopher in¬ 
vading a specialist’s field; but they atoned for errors or 
detail by illuminating generalizations that gave a new unity 
and intelligibility to vast areas of biological fact. 

Spencer begins with a famous definition: “Life is the con¬ 
tinuous adjustment of internal relations to external rela¬ 
tions.” ^ The completeness of life depends on the complete¬ 
ness of this correspondence; and life is perfect when the cor¬ 
respondence is perfect. The correspondence is not a merely 
passive adaptafion; wdiat distinguishes life is the adjustment 
of internal relations in anticipation of a change in ex¬ 
ternal relations, as when an animal crouches to avoid a blow, 
or a man makes a fire to warm his food. The defect of 
the definition lies not merely in its tendency to neglect the 

^Principles of Biolopy; New York, 1910; 1, 99. 



HERBERT SPENCER 


40b 


remoulding activity of tlie organism upon the environment, 
but in its failure to explain what is that subtle power whereby 
an organism is enaljled to make these prophetic adjustments 
that characterize vitality. In a chapter added to later edi¬ 
tions, Spencer was forced to discuss ‘‘The Dynamic Element 
in Life,” and to admit tliat liis definition had not really re¬ 
vealed the nature of life. “We are obliged to confess that 
Life in its essence cannot be conceived in physico-chemical 
terms.” ^ He did not realize how damaging such an admis¬ 
sion was to the unity and completeness of his system. 

As Spencer sees in the life of the individual an adjustment 
of internal to external relations, so he sees in the life of the 
species a remarkable adjustment of reproductive fertilit}^ to 
the conditions of its habitat. Reproduction arises originally 
as a readaptation of the nutritive surface to the nourished 
mass; the growth of an amoeba, for example, involves an 
increase of mass much more rapid than the increase in the 
surface through which the mass must get its nourishment. 
Division, budding, spore-formation, and sexual reproduction 
have this in common, that the ratio of mass to surface is re^ 
duced, and the nutritive balance is restored. Hence the 
growth of the individual organism beyond a certain point is 
dangerous; and normally growth gives wa}^ after a time, to 
reproduction. 

On the average, growth varies inversely with the rate of 
energy-expenditure; and the nite of reproduction varies 
inversely with the degree of growth. ^Tt is well known to 
breeders that if a filly is allowed to bear a foal, she is thereby 
prevented from reaching her proper size. ... As a converse 
fact, castrated animals, as capons and notabl}’ cats, often 
become larger than their unmutilated associates.” “ The rate 
of reproduction tends to fall as the development and capa¬ 
bility of the individual progress. “When, from lowness of 
organization, the ability to contend with external dangers 


U, 120. 

45fl. 



^404 THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 

is small, there must be great fertility to compensate for the 
consequent mortality; otlierwise tlic race must die out. Wlien, 
on the contrary, high endowments give much capacity for 
self-preservation, a correspondingly low degree of fertility is 
requisite,” lest the rate of multiplication should outrun the 
supply of food.^ In general, then, there is an opposition 
of individuation and genesis, or individual development and 
fertility. The rule holds for groups and species more regu¬ 
larly than for individuals: the more highly developed the 
species or the group, the lower will its birth-rate be. But 
it holds for individuals too, on the average. For example, 
intellectual development seems hostile to fertility. ‘‘Where 
exceptional fertility exists, there is sluggishness of mind, and 
where there has been, during education, excessive expenditure 
in mental action, there frequently follows a complete or 
partial infertility. Hence the particular kind of further 
evolution which Man is hereafter to undergo is one which, 
more than any other, may be expected to cause a decline in 
his power of reproduction.” ^ Philosophers are notorious for 
shirking parentage. In woman, on the other hand, the arrival 
of motherhood normally brings a diminution of intellectual 
activity; ® and perhaps her shorter adolescence is due to her 
earlier sacrifice to reproduction. 

Despite this approximate adaptation of birth-rate to the 
needs of group survival, the adaptation is never complete, and 
Malthus was right in his general principle that population 
tends to outrun the means of subsistence. “From the begin¬ 
ning this pressure of population has been the proximate cause 
of progress. It produced the original diffusion of the race. 
It compelled men to abandon predatory habits and take to 
agriculture. It led to the clearing of the earth’s surface. 
It forced men into the social state, . . . and developed the 
social sentiments. It has stimulated to progressive improve^ 

1II, 421. 

2 II, 530. 

s Autob,, U ^ 2 . 



HERBERT SPENCER 


405 


merits in production, and to increased skill and intelligence.’' ^ 
J[t is the chief cause of that struggle for existence through 
which the fittest are enabled to survive, and through whicli the 
level of the race is raised. 

Whether the arrival of the fittest is due chiefly to sponta¬ 
neous favorable variations, or to the partial inheritance of 
characters or capacities rej)eatedly ac(]uircd by successive 
generations, is a question on which Spencer look no dogmatic 
stand; he accepted Darwin’s theory gladly, but feP that there 
were facts which it could not exjdain, and Avliich compelled 
a modified acceptance of Lamarckian vluws. He defended 
Lamarck with fine vigor in his controversy with Weismaun, 
and pointed out certain defects in the Darwinian theory. In 
those days Spencer stood almost alone on the side of Lamarck; 
it is of some interest to note that toda^’ the neo-Lamarckians 
include descendants of Darwin, while the greatest contem¬ 
porary English biologist gives it as the view of present-day 
students of genetics that Darwin’s 'particular theory (not, of 
course the general theory) of evolution must be abandoned.^ 

V. psychology: the evolution of mind 

The two volumes on The Principles of Psychology (1873) 
are the weakest links in Spencer’s chain. Tiicrc had been an 
earlier volume on the subject (1855), a youtlifiilly vigorous 
defense of materialism and determinism; but ..ge and thought 
revised this into a milder form, and padded it out with hun¬ 
dreds of pages of painstaking but unilluminating analysis. 
Here, even more than elsewhere, Spencer is rich in theories 
and poor in proofs. He has a theory of the origin of nerves 
out of intercellular connective tissue; and a theory of the 
genesis of instinct by the compounding of reflexes and the 
transmission of acquired characters; and a theory of the origin 
*J)f mental categories out of the experience of the race; and 

1 f^iology, ii, 536. 

2Cf., midress of Sir \Vm. Bateson before the American Association fof 
the Advanc;:;ncnt of Science (Toronto, Dec. 28, 1921), in Science, Jan. 20, 1922"^ 



406 


THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 


a theory of ‘transfigured realism”; ^ and a hundred other 
theories that have all the obfuscating power of metaphysics 
rather than the clarifying virtue of a matter-of-fact psy¬ 
chology. In these volumes we leave realistic England and 
go “back to Kant.” 

What strikes us at once is that for the first time in the 
history of psychology, we get here a resolutely evolutionist 
point of view, an attempt at genetic explanations, an effort 
to trace the bewildering complexities of thought down to the 
simplest of nervous operations, and finally to the motions of 
matter. It is true that this effort fails; but who has ever 
succeeded in such an attempt? Spencer sets out with a 
magnificent program for the unveiling of the processes 
whereby consciousness has been evolved; in the end he is com¬ 
pelled to posi^ consciousness everywhere,- in order to evolve 
it. He insists that there has been one continuous evolution 
from nebula to mind, and at last confesses that matter is 
known only through mind. Perhaps the most significant 
paragraphs in these volumes are those in which the materialist 
philosophy is abandoned: 

Can the oscillation of a molecule be represented in con¬ 
sciousness side by side with a nervous shock, and the two be 
recognized as one? No effort enables us to assimilate them. 
That a unit of feeling has nothing in common with a unit of 
motion, becomes more than ever manifest wlien we bring the 
two into juxtaposition. And the immediate verdict of con¬ 
sciousness thus given, might be analytically justified; . . . 
for it might be shown that the conception of an oscillating 
molecule is built out of many units of feeling.” (I. e., our 
knowledge of matter is built up out of units of mind—sensa¬ 
tions and memories and ideas). “. . . Were we compelled 
to choose between the alternatives of translating mental 
phenomena into physical phenomena, or of translating physi- 

1 Spencer means by this that although the objects of experience may very 
well be transfigured by perception, and be quite other than they seem, they 
have an existence which does not all depend upon perceiving them.—II, 49i 
^Autoh,, ii, 549. 



HERBERT SPENCER 


407 


cal phenomena into mental phenomena, tlie latter alternative 

would seem the more acceptable of tlie two.^ 

Nevertheless there is of course an evolution of mind; a 
development of modes of res})onse from sim])le to compound 
to complex, from reflex to tropism to iri'^tinct, tlirou^li memory 
and imagination to intellect and reason. To the reader who 
can pass alive through these 1400 ])ages {)f physiological and 
psychological analysis there will mine an overwhelming sense 
of the continuity of life and the continuity of mind; he will 
see, as on a retarded cinematograph, the formation of nerves, 
the development of adaptive reflexes and instincts, and the 
production of consciousness and thought through the clash 
of conflicting impulses, ‘intelligence has neither distinct 
grades nor is it constituted hy faculties that are truly inde¬ 
pendent, but its liigliest manifestations are the effects of a 
complication that has arisen by insensible steps out of the 
simplest elements.’’ “ There is no hiatus between instinct and 
reason; each is an adjustment of inner relations to outer rela¬ 
tions, and the only difference is one of degree, in so far as the 
relations responded to hy instinct arc comparatively stereo¬ 
typed and simple, while those met hy reason are comparatively 
novel and comi)lex. A rational action is sim{)lv an instinctive 
response which has survived in a struggle with other instu C' 
tive responses aroused hy a situation; ‘"deliberation” is merely 
the internecine strife of rival impulses.^ At bottom, reason 
and instinct, mind and life, arc one. 

Will is an abstract term which we give to the sum of our 
active impulses, and a volition is the natural flow of an un¬ 
impeded idea into action.^ An idea is the first stage of an 
action, an action is the last stage of an idea. Similarly, an 
emotion is the first stage of an instinctive action, and the ex¬ 
pression of the emotion is a useful prelude to the completed 

^ Principht of PsyehoUajy, Xew York, 1910; i, 15S-9. 

2 I, 38». 

«I, 453-^. 

* I, 49fr-7. 



408 


THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 


response; the baring of the teeth in anger gives a substantial 
hint of that tearing of the enemy to pieces wliich used to be 
the natural termination of such a beginning.^ ‘T^^orms of 
thought” like tlie perception of space and time, or the notions 
of quantity and cause, which Kant supposed innate, are 
merely instinctive ways of thinking; and as instincts are habits 
acquired by the race but native to the individual, so these 
categories are mental habits slowly acquired in the course of 
evolution, and now part of our intellectual heritage/- All 
these age-long puzzles of psychology can be explained by ‘Hhe 
inheritance o^ continually-accumulating modifications.” ^— 
It is of course just this all-pervading assumption that makes 
so much of these laborious volumes questionable, and perhaps 
vain. 


VI. sociology: the evolution of society 

With sociology the verdict is quite different. These stout 
volumes, whose publication ranged over twenty 3 ^oars, are 
Spencer’s masterpiece: they cover his favorite field, and show 
him at his best in suggestive generalization and political 
philosophy. From his first book. Social Statics^ to the last 
fascicle of The Principles of Sociology^ over a stretch of 
almost half a century, his interest is predominantly in the 
problems of economics and government; he begins and ends, 
like Plato, with discourses on moral and political justice. No 
man, not even Comte (founder of the science and maker of the 
word), has done so much for sociology. 

In a popular introductory volume. The Study of Sociology 
(1873), Spencer argues eloquently for the recognition and 
development of the new science. If determinism is correct in 
psychology, there must be regularities of cause and effect in 
social phenomena; and a thorough student of man and society 
will not be content with a merely chronological history, like 

II, 482 f; ii, 540 f. 

2 I, 466. 

• 1, 49L 



HERBERT STENCER 


409 


Livy’s, nor with a biographical liistory like Carlyle’s; lie will 
look in human history for those geiicrfil lines of clevelojiineTit, 
those causal sequences, those illuminating correlations, whicli 
transform the wilderness of facts into the chart of science. 
What biography is to anthro])()log\, histor\^ is to sociology.^ 
Of course there are a thousand ohstacl(*s tliat the study of 
society must yet overcome before it can deserve the name of 
science.^ The young study is liarassed by a multitude of 
prejudices—personal, educational, the(*iogieal, economic, po¬ 
litical, national, religious; and by the ready omniscience of 
the uninformed. ‘‘There is a story of a Ercnchinan who, hav¬ 
ing been three weeks here, proposed to write a book on Eng¬ 
land; who, after three months, found that he was not quite 
ready; and who, after three years, concluded that he knew 
nothing about it.”^ Such a man was ri])e to begin the study 
of sociology. Men prepare themselves with life-long study 
before becoming authorities in physics or chemistry or 
biology; but in the field cf social and political affairs every 
grocer’s boy is an expert, knows the solution, and demands to 
be heard. 

Spencer’s owui preparation, in this case, was a model of 
intellectual conscience. lie enqiloycd three secretaries to 
gather data for him, and to classify the data in parallel col¬ 
umns giving the domestic, ecclesiastical, professional, political, 
and industrial institutions of every significant people. At 
his own expense he published these collection.^ in eight large 
volumes, so that other students might verify or modify his 
conclusions; and the publicfitiori being unfinished at his death, 
he left part of his little savings to complete the undertaking 
After seven years of such preparation, the first volume of 
the Sociology appeared in 1876; not until 1896 was the last 
one ready. When everything else of Spencer’s has become 

1 The Study of Sociology, New York, 1910; p. 52. 

^The Prin-cipleg of Ethics, New York, 1910; j, iOl*. If Spencer’s critics 
had read this passage they would not have accused him of over-rating 
Sociology. 

^ Study, 9. 



410 THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 

a task for the antiquarian, these three volumes will still be 
rich in reward for every student of society. 

Nevertheless, the initial conception of the work is typical of 
Spencer’s habit of rushing into generalizations. Society, he 
believes, is an organism, having organs of nutrition, circula¬ 
tion, coordination and reproduction,^ very much as in the case 
of individuals. It is true that in the individual, consciousness 
is localized, while in society each of the parts retains its own 
consciousness and its own will; but the centralization of gov¬ 
ernment and authority tend to reduce the scope of this distinc¬ 
tion. “A social organism is like an individual organism in 
these essential traits: that it grows; that while growing it be¬ 
comes more complex; that while becoming more complex, its 
parts acquire increasing mutual dependence; that its life 
is immense in length compared with the lives of its component 
units; . . . that in both cases there is increasing integration 
accompanied by increasing heterogeneity.” ^ Thus the devel¬ 
opment of society liberally carries out the formula of evolu¬ 
tion: the growing size of the political unit, from family to 
state and league, the growing size of the economic unit, from 
petty domestic industry to monopolies and cartels, the grow¬ 
ing size of the population unit, from villages to towns and 
cities—surely these show a process of integration; while the 
division of labor, the multiplication of professions and trades, 
and the growing economic interdependence of city with 
country, and of nation with nation, amply illustrate the de¬ 
velopment of coherence and differentiation. 

The same principle of the integration of the heterogeneous 
applies to every field of social phenomena, from religion and 
government to science and art. Religion is at first the wor¬ 
ship of a multitude of gods and spirits, more or less alike in 
every nation; and the development of religion comes through 
the notion of a central and omnipotent deity subordinating 

iCf. budding with colonization, and sexual reproduction with the inter¬ 
marriage of races. 

2 ii, SGt 



HERBERT SPENCER 


411 


the others, and coordinating them into their hierarchy of 
special roles. The first gods were j)robably suggested by 
dreams and ghosts.^ The word spirit was, and is, ap])licd 
equally to ghosts and gods. Tlie primitive mind believed that 
in death, or sleep, or trance, the gho.^t or spirit left the body; 
even in a sneeze the forces of exf)irati(jn iniglit expel the spirit, 
so that a protective ‘‘(iod bless you!'’- or its equivalent—be¬ 
came attached to this dangerous ad\ei]ture. Echoes and 
reflections were sounds and siglits of one's ghost or double; 
the Basuto refuses to walk by a stream, lost a crocodile should 
seize his shadow and consume it. God was, at first, only ‘‘a 
permanently existing ghost.” Persons who had been power¬ 
ful during their earthly lives were believed to keej) their 
power in their ghostly appearance. Among tlie Tannese the 
word for god means, literall}’, a dead man.*’ ‘"Jcliovah” meant 
‘‘the strong one,” ‘‘"the warrior”: lie liad been a local ])otentate, 
perhaps, who was worshiped after his death as the “god of 
hosts.” Such dangerous gliosts had to be pro})itiated: funeral 
rites grew into worship, and all the modes of carrying favor 
with the earthly chief were applied to the ceremonial of 
prayer and the appeasement of the gods. Ecclesiastical 
revenues originated in gifts to the gods, just as state revenues 
began as presents to the chief. Obeisances to kings bcca* )e 
prostration and prayer at the altar of the god. The deriva¬ 
tion of the god from the dead king shows clortrlv in the case 
of the Romans, who deified rulers before their death. In such 
ancestor-worship all religion seems to have its origin. The 
power of this custom may be illustrated by the story of the 
chief who refused baptism because he was not satisfied with 
the answer to his query as to whether he would meet his un¬ 
baptized ancestors in heaven. (Something of this belief 
entered into the bravery of the Japanese in the war of 1905; 

^ Principlet of Socioloqy, New York, 1910; i, 286. 

»I, 296. 

»I, .m 

<1, 284. 422; Encycl. lirit., “Ancestor-worship," 



THE STORY OF THILOSOPHY 


412 

death was made easier for them by the tliought tliat their 
ancestors were looking down upon them from tlie skies.) 

Religion is probably llie central feature in the life of primi¬ 
tive men; existence is so precarious and humble among them 
that the soul lives rather in tlie hope of things to come than 
in the reality of things seen. In some measure, supernatural 
religion is a concomitant of militarist societies; as war gives 
way to iiulustr}’', thought turns from death to life, and life 
runs out of the grooves of reverent authority into the open 
road of initiative and freedom. Indeed, the most far-reaching 
change that has taken place in all the history of western 
society is the gradual replacement of a military by an in¬ 
dustrial regime. Students of the state habitually classify 
societies according as their governments are monarchical, 
aristocratic, or democratic; but these are superficial distinc¬ 
tions; the great dividing line is that which separates militant 
from industrial societies, nations that live by war from those 
that live by work. 

The military state is always centralized in government, and 
almost always monarchical; the cooperation it inculcates is 
regimental and compulsory; it encourages authoritarian reli¬ 
gion, worshiping a warrior god; it develops rigid class distinc¬ 
tions and class codes; it props up the natural domestic absolu¬ 
tism of the male. Because the death rate in warlike societies 
is high, they tend to polygamy and a low status of women. 
Most states have been militant because war strengthens the 
central power and makes for the subordination of all interests 
to those of the state. Hence ^‘history is little more than the 
Newgate calendar of nations,” a record of robbery, treachery, 
murder and national suicide. Cannibalism is the shame of 
primitive societies; but some modern societies are sociophag- 
ous, and enslave and consume whole peoples. Until war is 
outlawed and overcome, civilization is a j)recarious interlude 
between catastrophies; “the possibility of a high social . . • 
state fundamentally depends on the cessation of war.” ^ 

1II, 663. 



HERBERT SPENX1:R 


413 


The liopc of sucli a consummation lies not so much in tlie 
spiritual conversion of tlie hearts of mm (for men are wh; t 
the environment makes tliem), as in the development of in¬ 
dustrial societies. Industrj'^ makes fejr democracy and peace: 
as life ceases to be dominated by Avar, a tliousand centers 
of economic development arise*, and ])o\vcr is beneficently 
spread over a large ])ortion of the membi'rs of the group. 
Since production can ])rosper only wlune iniiiative is free, 
an industrial socictj^ l)rcaks down tliose traditions of au¬ 
thority, hierarchy, and caste, which fiouiish in military 
states, and under which military states flourish. The occu¬ 
pation of tlic soldier ceases to he held in high repute; and. 
patriotism becomes a love of one's country rather than a 
hatred of every otherd Peace ai home becomes the first need 
of prosperit}^, and as capital becomes international, and a 
thousand investments cross every frontier, international j^oace 
becomes a necessity as well. As foreign war diminishes, 
domestic brutality decreases; monogamy replaces polygamy 
because the life-tenure of men l^ecomes almost equal to that 
of women; the status of women rises, and tlie ^‘emancipation 
of women” becomes a matter of course.- Superstitious reli¬ 
gions give way to liberal creeds wliose focus of effort is the 
amelioration and ennoblement of luiman life and character 
this earth. The mechanisms of industry tcacli men the mech¬ 
anisms of the universe, and the notion of invariable sequences 
in cause and effect; exact investigation of natural causes re¬ 
places the easy resort to supernatural explanation.^' History 
begins to study the people at work rather than tlie kings at 
war; it ceases to be a record of personalities and becomes the 
history of great inventions and new ideas. The power of 
government is lessened, and the power of productive groups 
within the state increases; there is a passage “from status to 
contract,” from equality in subordination to freedom in initia- 

1II, 634r-5. 

2 I, 681. 

2II, 699. 



4U 


THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 


tive, from compulsory cooperation to cooperation in liberty. 
The contrast between the militant and the industrial types of 
society is indicated by ^‘inversion of the belief that individuals 
exist for the benefit of the State into the belief that the State 
exists for the benefit of the individuals,^ 

While protesting vigorously against the growth of an im¬ 
perialistic militarism in England, Spencer cliose liis country as 
a type of approach to the industrial socictj^ and pointed to 
France and Germany as instances of the militant state. 

From time to time newspapers remind us of the competi¬ 
tion between Germany and France in their military de¬ 
velopments. The body politic, in either case, expends most 
of its energies in growths of teeth and claws—every increase 
on the one side prompting an increase on the other. . . . 
Recently the French Minister for Foreign Affairs, referring 
to Tunis, Tongking, the Congo, and Madagascar, enlarged 
on the need there had been for competing in political bur¬ 
glaries with other nations; and held that, by taking forcible 
possession of territories owned by inferior peoples, ‘France 
has regained a certain portion of the glory which so many 
noble enterprises during previous centuries has insured her.’ 

. . . Hence we see why, in France, as in Germany, a scheme 
of social re-organization under which each citizen, while 
maintained by the community, is to labor for the community, 
has obtained so wide an adhesion as to create a formidable 
political body—why among the French, St, Simon, Fourier, 
Proudhon, Cabet, Louis Blanc, Pierre Lcroux, now by word 
and now by deed, have sought to bring about some form of 
communistic working and living. . . . Verification by con¬ 
trast meets us on observing that in England, where the ex¬ 
tent of ownership by others has been less than in France and 
Germany, alike under its military form and under its civil 
form, there has been less progress in sentiment and idea 
towards that form of ownershop by others which socialism 
implies.^ 

11, 575. 

2 in, 596-9. 



HERBERT SPENCER 


415 


As this passage indicates, Spencer l)elieves that socialism is 
a derivative of tlie militant and feudal type of state, and lias 
no natural affiliation with industry. lake militarism, sorlal- 
ism involves the devel()[)ment of centralization, the extension of 
governmental power, the decay of initiative, and the subordi¬ 
nation of the individual. ‘^^Well may Pririre Bismarck display 
leanings towards State Socialism.” ’ ‘‘It is the law of all 
organization that as it becomes coin[)lcte it becomes rigid.” ^ 
Socialism would be in industry what a i it;id instinctive equip¬ 
ment is in animals; it would jiroduce a community of human 
ants and bees, and would Issue in a slavery far more rnonot- 
onus and liopclcss than the jirescnt condition of affaiis. 

Under the compulsory arbitration wliich socialism would 
necessitate, . . . the regulators, pursuing their personal in¬ 
terests, . . . would not be met by the combined ivsistancf^ of 
all workers; and their power, unchecked as now by refusals 
to work save on prescribed terms, would grow and ramify 
and consolidate until it became irresistible. . . . When from 
regulation of the workers by the bureaucracy we turn to the 
bureaucracy itself, and ask how it is to be regulated, there is 
no satisfactory’^ answer. . . . Under sucli conditions there 
must arise a new aristocracy, for tlic support of which the 
masses would toil; and wliich, h»'ing consolidated, w’oul 1 
wield a power far beyond that of any past aristocracy.* 

Economic relationships are so different from political re¬ 
lationships, and so much more complex, that no government 
could regulate them all without such an enslaving bureaucracy. 
State interference always neglects some factor of tlie intricate 
industrial situation, and has failed whenever tried; note the 
wage-fixing laws of medieval England, and the price-fixing 
laws of Revolutionary France. Economic relations must be 
left to the automatic self-adjustment (imperfect though it 
may be) of supply and demand. What society most wants it 

1 Social Statics, p. 329. 

2 Sociology, i, 571. 

“Ill, 5S8. There is danger of this in Russi.i to-day. 



416 THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 

will pay for most heavily; and if certain men, or certain func¬ 
tions, receive great rewards it is because they have taken, 
or have involved, exceptional risks or pains. Men as now 
constituted will not tolerate a comy)ulsory equality. Until an 
automaticall 3 "-changed environment automatically changes hu¬ 
man character, legislation enacting artificial changes will be 
as futile as astrolog 3 \^ 

Spencer was almost made sick by the thought of a world 
ruled by the wage-earning class. He was not enamored of 
trade-union leaders so far as he could know them through the 
refractory medium of the London Timesr He pointed out 
that strikes are useless unless most strikes fail; for if all work¬ 
ers should, at various times, strike and win, prices would pre¬ 
sumably rise in accord with the raised wages, and the situation 
would be as before.^ “We shall presentlj^ see the injustice^ 
once inflicted by the emplojdng classes paralleled by the in¬ 
justices inflicted by the employed classes.” 

Nevertheless his conclusions were not blindlj’^ conservative. 
He realized the chaos and brutality of the social sj^stem that 
surrounded him, and he looked about with evident eagerness to 
find a substitute. In the end he gave his sjMiipathies to the co¬ 
operative movement; he saw in this the culmination of that pas¬ 
sage from status to contract in which Sir Henry Maine had 
found the essence of economic history. “The regulation of 
labor becomes less coercive as society assumes a higher type. 
Here we reach a form in which the coerciveness has diminished 
to the smallest degree consistent with combined action. Each 
member is his own master in respect of the work he does; and 
is subject only to such rules, established by majority of the 
members, as are needful for maintaining order. The transi¬ 
tion from the compulsory cooperation of militancy to the vol¬ 
untary cooperation of industrialism is completed.” ® He 

1 Cf. 77ie Man vs, the State, 

2 in, 589. 

sill, 545. 

^ Autob,, ii, 433. 

sill, 572. 



HERBERT SPENCER 


417 


doubts if human beings are yet lioncst and competent enoiigli 
to make so democratic a system of industry efficient; ljut l.e 
is all for trying. He foresees a time when industry will no 
longer be directed by al)solute masters, and men will no longer 
sacrifice their lives in the production of rubbisli. the 

contrast between the militant and tlie Industrial ty])cs is indi¬ 
cated by inversion of the belief that iiuiividunls exist for the 
benefit of the state into the belief that the state exists for the 
benefit of individuals; so tbe contrast bv‘t.\een the industrial 
type and tlie type likely to be evolved frtnn it is indicated bj 
inversion of the belief that life is for work into the belief that 
work is for life.” ^ 

VII. ethics: the evoet tion of morals 

So important does this pioblem of industrial reconstruction 
seem to Spencer that he devotes to it again the largest section 
of The Principles of Ethics (1893)—‘Hhis last part of my 
task ... to which I regard all the ])receding ])arts as subsid¬ 
iary.” “ As a man with all the moral severity of the mid- 
Victorian, Spencer was especially sensitive to the ])roblem of 
finding a new and natural ethic to replace the moral code 
which had been associated with the traditional faith. ‘‘T " 
supposed supernatural sanctions of righi: conduct do not, if 
rejected, leave a blank. There exist natural sanctions no less 
pre-emptory, and covering a much \\ider field.” • 

The new morality must be built upon biology. ‘^Accept¬ 
ance of the doctrine of organic evolution determines certain 
ethical conceptions.” ** Huxley, in bus Romanes lectures at Ox¬ 
ford in 1893, argued that biology could not be taken as an 
ethical guide; that “nature red in tooth and claw” (as Tenny¬ 
son was phrasing it) exalted brutality and cunning rather 
than justice and love; but Spencer felt that a moral code 
11, 575. 

^Ethics, vol. i, p. xiiL 
»I, 7. 

25. 



418 THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 

which could not meet the tests of luitural selection and the 
struggle for existence, was from the beginning doomed to lip- 
service and futility. Conduct, like anything else, should be 
called good or bad as it is well adapted, or mal-adapted, to the 
ends of life; “the highest conduct is that which conduces to the 
greatest length, breadth, and completeness of life.” ^ Or, in 
terms of the evolution formula, conduct is moral according as 
it makes the individual or the group more integrated and co¬ 
herent in the midst of a heterogeneity of ends. Morality, like 
art, is the achievement of unity in diversity; the highest type 
of man is he who effectively unites in himself the widest variety, 
complexity, and completeness of life. 

This is a rather vague definition, as it must be; for nothing 
varies so much, from place to place and from time to time, as 
the specific necessities of adaptation, and therefore the specific 
content of the idea of good. It is true that certain forms of 
behavior have been stamped as good—as adapted, in the large, 
to the fullest life—by the sense of pleasure which natural se¬ 
lection has attached to these preservative and expansive ac¬ 
tions. The complexity of modern life has multiplied excep¬ 
tions, but normally, pleasure indicates biologically useful, and 
pain indicates biologically dangerous, activities.^ Neverthe¬ 
less, within the broad bounds of this principle, we find the most 
diverse, and apparently the most hostile, conceptions of the 
good. There is hardly any item of our Western moral code 
which is not somewhere held to be immoral; not only polyg¬ 
amy, but suicide, murder of one’s own countrymen, even of 
one’s parents, finds in one people or another a lofty moral 
approbation. 

The wives of the Fijian cliiefs consider it a sacred duty 
to suffer strangulation on the death of their husbands. A 
woman who had been rescued by Williams ‘escaped during the 
night, and, swimming across the river, and presenting hcr- 

11, 22, 26; U, 8. 

>1, 98. 



HERBERT SPENCER 


419 


self to her own people, insisted on the completion of the sac¬ 
rifice which she had in a moment of weakness reluctantly 
consented to forego’; and Wilkes tells of another wlio loaded 
lier rescuer ‘with abuse,’ and ever iifteriNards manifested the 
most deadly hatred towards him.” ^ “Li\ingstone says of 
the Makololo women, on the shores of Uie Zambesi, tJiat they 
were quite shocked to hear that in Ihighind a man had only 
one wife: to have only one was not 'rcsyuctable.’ So, too, 
in Kquatorial Africa, according to Ueadc, ‘If a man mairics, 
and his wife thinks that he can aft'ord anothe r spouse, she 
pesters him to marry again; and calls iiim a “stingy fellow” 
if he declines to do so.’ “ 

Such facts, of course, conflict with the belief that there is 
an inborn moral sense which tells each man what is right and 
what is wu'ong. But the association of ])leasurc and ])ain, on 
the average, wdth good or e\il conduct, indicates a measure of 
truth in the idea; and it may very well be that certain moral 
conceptions, acquired by the race, become hereditary w ith the 
individual.® Here Spencer uses his favorite formula to rec¬ 
oncile the intuitionist and the utilitarian, and falls bach once 
more upon the inheritance of acquired characters. 

Surely, however, the innate moral sense, if it exists, is in 
difficulties today; for never were ethical notions more confused 
It is notorious that the principles which we apply in our ac¬ 
tual living are largely opposite to those wdiicli we preach in 
our churches and our books. The professed ethic of Europe 
and America is a pacifistic Christianity; the actual etluc is 
the militaristic code of tlie marauding Teutons from whom the 
ruling strata, almost cveryw here in Europe, are derived. The 
practice of duelling, in Catholic France and Protestant 
Germany, is a tenacious relic of the original Teutonic code.^ 
Our moralists are kept busy apologizing for these contradic- 

1 1, 469. 

2 I. 827. 

* I, 471. 

^ I, 828. 



420 


THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 


tions, just as the moralists of a later monogamic Greece and 
India were hard put to it to explain the conduct of gods who 
had been fashioned in a semi-promiscuous age.^ 

Whether a nation develops its citizens on the lines of Chris^ 
tian morality or the Teutonic code depends on whether indus¬ 
try or war is its dominant concern. A militant society exalts 
certain virtues and condones what other peoples might call 
crimes; aggression and robbery and treachery are not so un¬ 
equivocally denounced among peoples accustomed to them by 
war, as among peoples who have learned the value of honesty 
and non-aggressi >n through industry and peace. Generosity 
and humanity flourish better where war is infrequent and long 
periods of productive tranquillity inculcate the advantages 
of mutual aid.- The patriotic member of a militant society 
will look upon bravery and strength as the highest virtues of 
a man; upon obedience as the highest virtue of the citizen; 
and upon silent submission to multiple motherhood as the high¬ 
est virtue of a woman.^ The Kaiser thought of God as the 
leader of the German army, and followed up his approbation 
of duelling by attending divine service.^ The North Ameri¬ 
can Indians ‘‘regarded the use of the bow and arrow, the 
war-club and spear, as the noblest employments of man. . . . 
They looked upon agricultural and mechanical labor as de¬ 
grading. . . . Only during recent times—only now that na¬ 
tional welfare is becoming more and more dependent on supe¬ 
rior powers of production,” and these “on the higher mental 
faculties, are other occupations than militant ones rising into 
respectability.” ® 

Now war is merely wholesale cannibalism; and there is no 
reason why it should not be classed with cannibalism and un¬ 
equivocally denounced. “The sentiment and the idea of jus¬ 
tice can grow only as fast as the external antagonisms of 

1 I, 458. 

2 I, 391 f. 

»Cf. the philosophy of Nietzsche. 

4 I, 818. 

» I, 423-4. 



HEUBEllT SPENCI:R 


421 


aocieties decrease, and tlie internal liarinonioiis cooperations of 
tlieir members increase.” ^ How can this harmony be pi o- 
moted.^ As we liave seen, it comes more rt adily tlirou^li free¬ 
dom than through regulation. The formula of justice should 
be: ‘‘Every man is free to do that which he wills, provided 
he infringes not the equal freedom of any otlier man.” “ This 
is a formula hostile to war, which exalts authority, regimenta¬ 
tion and obedience; it is a formula favorable to ])caceful in¬ 
dustry, for it provides a maximum of stimulus wita an absolute 
equality of opportunity; it is conformable K) Christian morals, 
for it holds every person sacred, and frees him from aggres¬ 
sion; ® and it has the sanction of that ultimate judge—natural 
selection—because it opens up the resources of the earth on 
equal terms to all, and permits each individual to prosper ac¬ 
cording to his ability and his work. 

This may seem, at first, to be a ruthless principle; and 
many will oppose to it, as capable of national extension, the 
family principle of giving to eiich not according to his ability 
and product, but according to his need. But a society gov¬ 
erned on such principles would soon be eliminated. 

During immaturity benefits received must be inversely 
proportionate to capacities possessed. Within the famMy- 
group most must be given where least is deserved, if desert 
is measured by worth. Contrarnvi5»e, after Tiiaturity is 
reached benefit must vary directly as worth: worth being 
measured by fitness to the conditions of existence. The ill- 
fitted must suffer the evils of unfitness, and the »vell-fitted 
profit by their fitness. These are tlie two laws w'hich a 
species must conform to if it is to be preserved. ... If, 
among the young, benefit were proportioned to efficiency, the 
species would disappear forthwith; and if, among adults, 
benefit were proportioned to inefficiency, the species would 
disappear by decay in a few' generations. . . . The only 
justification for the analogy between parent and child, and 

1 1, 377. 

2 II, 40. 

* I, 257. 



422 


THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 


government and people, is the childishness of the people who 
entertain the analogy.^ 

Liberty contends with Evolution for priority in Spencer’s 
affections; 2 and I.iherty wins. He thinks that as war de¬ 
creases, the control of the individual hy the state loses most of 
its excuse;'^ and in a condition of permanent peace the state 
w^ould be reduced within Jeffersonian hounds, acting only to 
prevent hreaclies of equal freedom. Such justice should be 
administered witliout cost, so that wrong-doers might know 
that the poverty of their victims would not shield them from 
punishment; and all the expenses of the state should be met 
by direct taxation, lest the invisibility of taxation should di¬ 
vert public attention from governmental extravagance.'* But 
‘‘beyond maintaining justice, the state cannot do anything else 
without transgressing justice”; ® for it would then be protect¬ 
ing inferior individuals from that natural apportionment of 
reward and capacity, penalty and incapacity, on which the 
survival and improvement of the group depend. 

The principle of justice would require common ownership 
of land, if we could separate the land from its improvements.® 
In his first book, Spencer had advocated nationalization of the 
soil, to equalize economic opportunity; but he withdrew his 
contention later (much to the disgust of Henry George, who 
called him “the perplexed philosopher”), on the ground that 
land is carefully husbanded only by the family that owns 
it, and that can rely on transmitting to its own descendants 
the effects of the labor put into it. As for private property, 
it derives immediately from the law of justice, for each man 
should be equally free to retain the products of his thrift. 
The justice of bequests is not so obvious; but the “right to be¬ 
queath is included in the right of ownership, since otherwise 

1 IT, 4, 217. 

2 Elliott, Herbert Spencer, p. 81. 

8 I, 148, 420. 

4 II, 200. 

5 II, 222. 

411 , 81 . 



HERBERT SPENCER 


423 


the ownership Is not complete.” ^ Trade should be as free 
among nations as among individuals; the law of justice should 
be no merely tribal code, but an inviolable maxim of interna 
tional relations. 

These are, in outline, the real “rights of man”—the right to 
life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness on equal terms with 
all. Besides these economic rights, j)olitical rights are unim¬ 
portant unrealities.^ Changes in tlie form of government 
amount to nothing where economic life is not free; and a 
laissez-faire monarchy is much better than a socialistic de* 
niocracy. 

Voting being simply a method of Treating an appliance 
for the preservation of rights, the question is wliether uni¬ 
versality of votes conduces to creation of the best appliance 
for the preservation of rights. We ha\c seen that it does 
not effectually secure this end. . . . Experience makes ob¬ 
vious that which should hav’e been obvious without experi¬ 
ence, that with a universal distribution of votes the larger 
class will inevitably profit at the expense of the smaller 
class. . . . Evidently the constitution of the state appro¬ 
priate to that industrial type of society in which equity’ is 
fully realized, must be one in which there is not a representa¬ 
tion of individuals but a representation of interests. ... It 
may be that the industrial type, perhaps by the develop¬ 
ment of cooperative organizations, which theoretically, 
though not at present practically, obliterate the distinction 
between employer and employed, may produce social ar¬ 
rangements under which antagonistic class-interests will 
either not exist, or will be so far mitigated as not seriously 
to complicate matters. . . . But with such humanity as now 
exists, and must for a long time exist, the possession of what 
are called equal rights will not insure the maintenance of 
equal rights properly so-called,^ 

Since political rights arc a delusion, and only economic 
rights avail, women are misled wdien they spend so much time 

1 n, 120 . 

2 II. 192-3. 



4^4 


THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY 


seeking tlie franchise. Spencer fears that the maternal In¬ 
stinct for helping the helpless may lead women to favor a j3a- 
ternalistlc state.^ There Is some confusion In his mind on 
this point; he argues that political rights arc of no impor¬ 
tance, and tlien that it is very important that women should 
not have them; he denounces war, and tlien contends that 
women should not vote because they do not risk their lives in 
battle “—a shameful argument for any man to use who has 
been born of a woman’s suffering. He is afraid of women be¬ 
cause they may be too altruistic; and yet the culminating con¬ 
ception of his book is tliat industry and peace will develop al¬ 
truism to the point where it will balance egoism and so evolve 
the spontaneous order of a philosophic anarchism. 

The conflict of egoism and altruism (this word, and some¬ 
thing of this line of thouglit, Spencer takes, more or less un¬ 
consciously, from Comte) results from the conflict of the indi¬ 
vidual with his family, his group, and his race. Presumably 
egoism will remain dominant; but pcrha})s that is desirable. 
If everybody thought more of the interests of others than of 
his own we should have a chaos of curtsies and retreats; and 
probably ‘‘the pursuit of individual happiness within the lim¬ 
its prescribed by social conditions is the first requisite to the 
attainment of the greatest general happiness.” ^ What we 
may expect, however, is a great enlargement of the sphere of 
sympathy, a great development of the impulses to altruism. 
Even now the sacrifices entailed by parentage are gladly made; 
“the wish for children among the childless, and the occasional 
adoption of children, show hovv needful for the attainment of 
certain egoistic satisfactions are these altruistic activities.”^ 
The intensity of patriotism is another instance of tlie passion¬ 
ate preference of larger interests to one’s immediate concerns. 
Every generation of social living deepens the impulses to mu- 

1II, 196-7. 

2 II, 166. 

8 I, 196, 190. 

4 I, 242-3. 



HKllliEllT SPENCER 


425 


tual aid. ^ ^‘Unceasing social discipline will so mould tiuman 
nature that eventually, sympathetic pleasures will }je spon¬ 
taneously pursued to the fullest extc^nl advantageous to all.’' - 
The sense of duty whicli is the echo of generations of compul¬ 
sion to social behavior, will then disa[)pear; altruistic actions, 
having become instinctive through tla ir natural selection for 
social utility, will, like every instiuct]\c opeiation, be per¬ 
formed witliout compulsion, and uith joy. T]'a natural ev¬ 
olution of liuman society brings us -ver nearer to the per¬ 
fect state. 


Vin. CHITICISM 

The intelligent reader, in ilie course of this brief analysis, 
will have perceived certain difficulties in tlic argument, and 
will need no more than some scattere<l reminders as to where 
the Imperfections He. Negative criticism is always unjileas^ 
ant, and most so in the face of a great achievement; but it is 
part of our task to see what time has done to Spencer’s syn¬ 
thesis. 


1, First Principles 

The first obstacle, of course. Is the Unknowable. We may 
cordially recognize the probable limitations of human knowl¬ 
edge; we cannot quite fathom that great sea of existence o. 
which we are merely a transient wave. But we must not dog¬ 
matize on the suliject, since in strict logic the assertion that 
anything is unknowable already implies some knowledge of 
the thing. Indeed, as Spencer prex'ceds through lus ten vol¬ 
umes, he shows ‘‘a prodigious knowledge of the unknowable.” ^ 

1 1, 466. 

2 I, 250. 

3 The analysis, of course, is incomplete. “Space forbids” (the author ha? 
often smiled at this cloak for laziness, hut must offer it here), a discussion of 
tlie Education, the Essay